Saturday, September 5, 2015

#1,846. Age of Consent (1969) - Spotlight on Australia

Directed By: Michael Powell

Starring: James Mason, Helen Mirren, Jack MacGowran

Tag line: "Let yourself go ...... they do!"

Trivia: Based on the life of Norman Lindsay, who would later be the subject of 1993's Sirens

Released in 1969, Age of Consent was one of director Michael Powell’s final efforts. With films ranging from the exquisite (The Red Shoes) to the deeply disturbing (Peeping Tom) to somewhere in-between (Black Narcissus), Powell left an indelible mark on the cinema, both in his native England and across the globe, and even today, his pictures rank among the greatest of all time (a 2004 poll by Total Film magazine named his 1946 fantasy / romance A Matter of Life and Death the 2nd best British movie ever made, behind 1971’s Get Carter).

Yet it isn’t the director that makes Age of Consent such a noteworthy film; it’s the appearance of a 22-year-old Helen Mirren, in what would be her first major role. As intriguing as she is beautiful, Dame Mirren’s talents are on full display even at this early stage of her career.

Based upon a semi-autobiographical novel by artist Norman Lindsey, Age of Consent stars James Mason as Bradley Morahan, a renowned painter who flees the New York art gallery scene and returns to his native Australia. 

Making his way to an island situated on the Great Barrier Reef, Morahan moves into a tiny shack with his dog Godfrey and spends his first few days combing the beach, enjoying the solitude of his own private paradise. 

Only a handful of people call this small island home, including a pretty blonde teenager named Cora (Mirren), who lives with her drunken grandmother Ms. Ryan (Neva Carr-Glynn) in a hut not far from Morahan's. Though he went there to be alone, Morahan takes a liking to the young girl, and she inspires him to start drawing again. 

Morahan pays Cora a dollar and a half an hour to model for him, which the young girl puts aside in the hopes of eventually having enough to leave this island - and her abusive grandmother - behind. But is Cora just a model for Morahan, or does she mean more to him than even he realizes?

The always reliable James Mason shines as the reclusive Morahan, an artist who, in his desire to avoid the limelight, travels to a remote corner of the globe, only to find a muse that motivates him like no other has before. In addition to Mason, Age of Consent features Neva Carr-Glynn, delivering a fiery performance as Ms. Ryan, Cora’s foul-tempered grandmother (after spotting her posing for Morahan, the old girl accuses Cora of prostituting herself, and threatens to report Morahan to the authorities for “corrupting” a minor); and Irish character actor Jack MacGowran also turns up as the artist’s “pal”, Nat Kelly, a freeloader who, to avoid being arrested for failing to pay his alimony, travels to the island, where he puts the moves on Isabel Marley (Andonia Kastaros), Morahan’s wealthy neighbor.

But from the moment she first appears on-screen - her wet lavender dress clinging to her so tightly that it leaves little to the imagination - Helen Mirren steals the movie right out from under her more experienced castmates, portraying Cora as a simple yet resourceful girl who wants more out of life than the island can offer her. 

Initially, Morahan is just another client, buying the crawfish and prawns that Cora also sells to local markets. But as the artist gets to know her, he realizes there’s more to this girl than meets the eye, and hires Cora to model for him. A free spirit who has no problem posing in the nude, Cora proves the perfect subject for his art, and as the two spend more time together, their business arrangement transforms into something much more substantial.

With its gorgeous setting (the movie was shot on-location at Queensland’s Dunk island) and top-notch cinematography (including some impressive underwater sequences), Age of Consent is every bit as stunning as many of Powell’s more prestigious films. 

Toss a youthful Helen Mirren into the mix - convincing as both an innocent teen and a young woman in love - and you have a movie that approaches greatness.

1 comment:

James Robert Smith said...

Great Jove she's gorgeous.