Age of Consent (1969) is a story about a middle-aged Australian
artist (James Mason, with an Aussie accent, sort of) who has lost his
inspiration, so moves to a remote island to recapture his connection with
nature. (The film was actually lensed on Dunk Island in the Great Barrier Reef
area.) His nearest neighbor on the island is a crazy old alcoholic granny and
- here's the good part - her very young and free-spirited granddaughter
(Helen Mirren), who becomes the artist's model and muse. Various mischief
ensues. There are some sub-plots about the girl's would-be boyfriend and the
artist's former colleague who visits and steals some money, but the point of
the film is basically Helen Mirren getting naked and James Mason painting her
to reinvigorate his ... er ... artistic muscles.
While not exactly a weighty milestone in cinema history, Age
of Consent is a very pleasant, old-fashioned movie with the additional kicker
of copious nudity. Made in 1969 in Australia,
it exercised that era's new sense of social and cinematic freedom with plenty
of sensuous flesh from a young, curvaceous, pre-regal Mirren in her nude
debut. While the script has some serious underlying ideas and is not precisely
a zany comedy, it has plenty of laughs. I guess it's what reviewers used to
call a gay romp, back in a day when that phrase had a different meaning.
The nearest film in spirit is probably the legendary
nudefest Sirens, and there is a very direct connection between the two films.
Sirens is a fictional story about a genuine Australian artist named Norman
Lindsay, who lived apart from civilization with his family and his coterie of
models in a tropical paradise where everyone frolicked about guiltlessly naked
while Lindsay painted and sculpted them into works of art. His creations sort
of blend Rubens and Gauguin into celebrations of a naked female form which is
inevitably full-hipped, large-breasted, and liberated. Lindsay was one of
those guys with boundless mental energy. Not content with being merely a
painter and sculptor, he was also a prolific editorial cartoonist, a novelist,
a poet, and an author of children's books - although you more
conservative types might not want your children exposed to Lindsay's thought
his Wikipedia entry if you would like a quick summary of his achievements.
You will notice that among those achievements is a novel called Age of Consent,
which brings us to the connection between this movie and Sirens.
Lindsay certainly knew a thing or two about the subject
matter of this film since it is partially autobiographical. James Mason,
imperfect accent notwithstanding, was in top form as Lindsay's surrogate, and
kept his usual oily mannerisms completely in check. Mirren, with her abundant
hips and breasts, had (still has actually) the perfect body for a Lindsay
model. At various times Mirren swims about in the buff, poses for nude
paintings, and just admires her own impressive knockers in the mirror.
Overall, Age of Consent is a pleasant way to pass the time, and was a moderate
hit in its era.