Sirens (1994) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

If you are reading my reviews, you are probably interested in the general topic of movies, and in the more specific area of film nudity.

Those of us with these common interests have often moaned, "why can't a movie with plenty of nudity and/or sex also be a watchable movie?"

Doesn't happen very often, does it? There's your "Basic Instinct", and then ......

Then there's the Aussie flick, "Sirens".

It would be an interesting flick without the nudity. Sam Neill, as a hedonistic life-embracing painter goes head-to-head with Hugh Grant, as a self-absorbed and condescending young pastor out to change the painter's mind about an exhibition. Beautiful photography of a semi-tropical area of the antipodes, lots of local color, and generally interesting and wry filmmaking.

The story is based on the life of a real painter, Norman Lindsay, and the film was photographed on the actual Lindsay estate. The link in the previous sentence is an excellent web site about Lindsay's work and the place where he lived. The painting to the left is Lindsay's "The End of War", a 1924 watercolor. The film tries to maintain the vivid look and feel of Lindsay's own paintings, but the incidents in the movie are completely fictitious.

I love the local newspapers that they keep showing, which only feature stories about people dying from attacks by sharks, spiders, and snakes. Apparently, no Australians ever died of natural causes in those days. The whole newspaper gag is just a throwaway. You barely notice it when you're watching, but it's a good example of the humor and attention to detail.

And then there's the nudity. Five luscious women (and one very buff guy) filmed full frontal, in bright light, in focus. And we're not talking about obscure women or skanks here. We're talking Portia DeRossi, Elle Macpherson, Kate Fischer, and Tara Fitzgerald as four of the five. (The other woman is obscure, and not so young, but generously endowed.)

I have to say that on a scale of 1 to 100, rating beautiful nudity from famous women in non-sex movies, this is 100. "Sirens" is the Holy Grail of naked famous women.


Portia DeRossi, Pamela Rabe, Elle Macpherson, Kate Fischer, and Tara Fitzgerald are naked often, including full frontals. All clearly photographed. Beautiful.

On the male side, Mark Gerber can be seen completely naked, including a full-frontal as he poses, and a scene of his masturbating as Tara Fitzgerald watches.

The contextual justification for the nudity is that the women who model for Lindsay are indeed the Sirens, both literally and figuratively. They are posing as the classical sirens in a Lindsay painting, but they are also luring the visiting parson and his wife into a more sensuous and warmer attitude toward life. In fact, to maintain the classical siren motif, the girls even sing together in one scene. The preacher shows some inclination toward one of the girls, but basically lashes himself to the mast of his religious convictions. Although our Odysseus is not seduced, his lovely wife is, succumbing to the charms of a local handyman/model, and warming up to new ideas in general. The film implies that this made her love her husband more, not less, and he seems to understand that, despite his eternally tight sphincter.

By the way, superduperhypermodel Elle Macpherson does a competent turn as one of the models. She gained thirty pounds to make her slim frame earthier, and is basically asked to play the part of a sexy and uncomplicated Aussie girl, a role for which she is obviously qualified. Director John Duigan did an excellent job at casting and using his actors. Hugh Grant is excellent as the intelligent but immature parson filled with false modesty and condescension, a part for which Grant obviously brings impressive qualifications. (Could they ever have considered anyone else for the part?)

DVD info from Amazon.

No features at all, but a beautiful widescreen letterboxed print, 1.85:1. Excluding black space, the images appear 720 pixels by 390

Writer/director John Duigan has had some disappointing outings in his last two films ("Molly", and "Paranoid"), but his work in the early 90's had a remarkable blend of intellect, flair, and sensuousness ("Lawn Dogs" is also his.). That promises some more fine entertainment for us soon. I hope. I want to think that "Paranoid" was just a huge aberration in his career.

If St Peter asks my opinion, as he so often does, Duigan gets into heaven just on the basis of "Sirens" alone. Although, frankly, we're gonna miss this horny bastard down in hell.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, Maltin 3/4.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it only 5.9, although it is much smarter and more entertaining than the typical film at that level.
  • With their dollars ... it wasn't a hit, taking in only $8 million in the USA.
My guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-. It is the rare case of a film with copious nudity which is acceptable to mainstream audiences. You can watch it with your wife, and she'll like it, too.

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