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Age of Consent [Blu-ray]
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Based on Norman Lindsay's controversial autobiographical 1935 novel, Age of Consent is the story of an artist (James Mason), grown tired of producing art for wealthy Americans, who moves to the wilds of Australia's Great Barrier Reef where he meets Cora (Helen Mirren), a teenage girl who inspires him and becomes his muse - as well as the object of his desire. The penultimate film from the great Michael Powell (Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, Peeping Tom) Age of Consent explores the obsessive nature of an artist approaching the twilight of his career. Misjudged and mis-handled on it's initial release (when the distributor removed key scenes and re-scored the film), Age of Consent is now regarded as one of Powell's key works.
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"Age of Consent" was the creation of a somewhat humbled man, and though it addresses some of the same artistic concerns as "The Red Shoes", it is a charming minor comedy as opposed to a creative tour de force. It's based a semi-autobiographical novel by Australian artist Norman Lindsay, whom you will find--- if you Google "Images"--- was responsible for a lot of sensual figure paintings.
James Mason as "Bradley Morahan" plays the role of a successful artist who has grown tired of cranking out abstract paintings for commercial galleries. He takes respite in a primitive cabin on an island off the Australian Great Barrier Reef. There he is joined by an odd assortment of wacky, "Gilligan's Island" sort of characters. In addition to a very proper policeman and a randy young boatsman/ferryman who visit periodically, the residents of the island include an alcoholic old crone, her lovely, "hippy-ish" granddaughter Cora (Helen Mirren, in her first film role), and a middle-aged spinster who is desperate to be wed. In addition, Bradley Morahan is visited on the island by a cadging acquaintance named "Nat Kelly", played by Jack McGowran. Both McGowran and Helen Mirren were actors associated with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company.
I suppose there is something mildly Shakespearian about the plot of this movie. Essentially, Bradley Morahan finds his "muse" in the guise of Cora. who spends her time swimming like a mermaid about the reef, pursuing lobster and oysters to sell to merchants on the mainland in order to make enough money to leave her confining existence. Morahan convinces Cora to pose for him, and produces wonderfully spontaneous drawings and paintings. But he has to contend with the harshly jealous grandmother, the sponging Kelly, etc., as he attempts to recapture his inspiration.
The lovely island and reef scenery, Morahan's artistic creations, and the unabashed sensuality of Mirren (who was early on in her film career known for "getting her kit off"), make this film an enjoyable bit of escapism.
The husband and wife team who filmed the underwater sequences in this movie later went on to do the same sort of work in 1980's similarly idyllic "Blue Lagoon", featuring Brooke Shields.
Filmmaker Martin Scorsese's enthustiastic championing of Michael Powell's films was responsible for getting several of them re-released---including "Age of Consent". Thank you, Martin Scorsese.
It's not overly sexualized as one might think, certainly not as much as the girl's grandmother kept trying to imply was going on! The actress who plays the girl is believable as a girl who is innocent about sex and sexuality and James Mason, although he is captivated by her, he isn't throwing himself on her. Those men who do actually get what is coming to them!
There is nudity. For the girl it's mostly in an artistic way. They actually seem a little shy to show too much of her from the front for too long but you do get to see her swim nude for a decent amount of time. There is one scene with some male nudity, but of an older man and from behind and it's more for comic purposes.
If you are looking for a porno, you will be sorely disappointed. However, if you are interested in innocent nudity with an actual story to it, this may be more your cup of tea!
My trouble here lies with the Mill Creek DVD release. As far as the picture and sound quality go, this transfer is astonishing. To these eyes, the print looks far sharper (with the colors appearing to be more rich) than the one on The Films of Michael Powell: A Matter of Life and Death (Stairway to Heaven)/Age of Consent DVD Region 1 DVD release by Sony. The problem is that this DVD release contains NO extras whatsoever. You have to purchase the Sony double feature to get the extras and the audio commentary offered for this title (it's also a worthwhile purchase in its own right). So I guess I am frustrated that Mill Creek couldn't simply afford to carry over the extra content that you have to double dip in order to see. Nonetheless, the picture speaks for itself and could serve as a reminder to today's comedy filmmakers that idiocy is not required to make fun, sexy, and thoroughly watchable lighthearted romantic adventure films. Helen is a stunner in this one. A+
When I heard of the movie and wondered where to find the 40+ years old film. I just looked on Amazon, right on time and price.
Jim Hyatt, Calimesa, CA
Top international reviews
A believable story with dramatics and sadness in places, but overall brilliance at its best.
I am very glad I have been able to obtain a dvd copy which Iwill always treasure.