Age of Consent (1969)
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I just saw this film and found it absolutely delightful. As others have noted, Helen Mirren is a wonder as a young girl working out the relationship between her body's strength and its beauty, and how each can help her get what she wants. There is one moment, when she takes control of a motorboat after having dumped a would-be lover overboard, when I saw the future Jane Tennison. James Mason is also marvelous as the obsessive painter. The natural setting, on the Great Barrier Reef, is liberating and beautiful but the heart of the movie is the little cabin which goes from a dump to a layered, painted work of art. This man's passion to make things, to create color and line on every available surface, seems to fill the movie's surface too. Near the end, when Cora enters the cabin and we see her surrounded by his paintings of her, the relationship between art and life seems to be a very happy one. It's too bad Michael Powell didn't get to make more films in the 1960s and early 70s. I think that if I could have seen this film at the time it was made (when I was a girl in my late teens, for whom nudity was not an option) it would have meant a lot to me.
The tone of this movie is kind of strange, going from light-hearted comedy to sudden tragedy and back again. It was directed Michael Powell, after this once- respected director had pretty much torpedoed his own career with the movie "Peeping Tom", which was considered unforgivably sleazy in its era in Britain, but is regarded as somewhat of classic today. Mason (who also co-produced) plays a role similar to the one he played in Stanley Kubrick's notorious film version of "Lolita". He walks the same fine line between an erudite artist trying shake off the shackles of bourgeois morality and a mere pervert lusting after some nubile flesh. Nevertheless, this movie doesn't take the predictable May-December sex route. It may be a little "politically incorrect" by today's standards, but I actually found far less creepy than the hypocritical morality of America today (where the media goes into morally-outraged hysterics every time some celebrity nymphet appears in a racy photo or video clip, even as they show this same photo or clip over and over. . .).
For what it's worth, Helen Mirren was well over "the age of consent" in real-life here, and she has the same GREAT body that would become in fixture in British art films and theater over the next three or four decades (even if she doesn't quite demonstrate the acting chops that recently earned her academy award for playing Queen Elizabeth II). This movie has its problems, including its very uneven tone, but it's definitely worth watching.
James Mason plays Bradley Morahan, a successful New York painter who has become tired of turning out the same old commercial tripe. He longs for home (Queensland, Australia) and the chance to experience life first hand, again. He rents a shack on a small island off the Great Barrier Reef and moves in with his dog Godfrey, stocking it with food, drink and oil paints.
The island is a tropical paradise, inhabited by fruit bats and several other characters content to have left the world behind. The granddaughter of one of the residents is a young girl named Cora, played by Helen Mirren. She supports her alcoholic grandmother by selling crayfish and oysters to the store on the mainland and dreams of getting away and becoming a hairdresser. Morahan is charmed by her and agrees to help her see her dream come true by paying her to model for him. She proves to be just the inspiration he needed and he begins to paint -- and live -- with renewed energy.
The film is easy-paced, amusing, and despite a few upsets along the way, leads to a fantasy conclusion. If you want to spend a pleasant couple of hours getting away from it all, I recommend seeing this film.
Directed by Michael Powell, it is now available on the Films of Michael Powell DVD along with A Matter of Life and Death (Stairway to Heaven), starring David Niven.
The theme - a talented but burnt out artist taking a break from his regular lifestyle to recharge his batteries, and becoming re-energised through a chance friendship formed with a young person from a very different background - is somewhat hackneyed, but with a good cast it can still be very effective. James Mason, as Bradley Monahan gave one of the great performances of his career playing a jaded 60 year old Australian painter who returns from New York to an isolated island on the Great Barrier reef off the Queensland coast for what appears to be an extended vacation, whilst a 24 year old Helen Mirren - straight from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre - changed horses completely here to give a remarkably mature interpretation of Cora Ryan, a lonely and unsophisticated orphaned teenager trapped in an isolated and unrewarding life with her drunken and quarrelsome grandmother. When Cora meets Bradley she starts by regarding him as a possibly useful source of pocket money, quickly comes to respect him for what he is, and finally develops a real affection for him. Michael Powell, returning to directing after the failure of Peeping Tom, was as usual both deft and effective, although more easy going and less powerful than for example in Black Narcissus. The colour cinematography was mostly a delight - the three strip Technicolor process used avoided the garish colours so often encountered in travel documentaries and many major feature films. I felt that the principal weakness of this film lay in Peter Yeldham's film-script, but it may well have originated in Lindsay's novel. He was one of Australia's best known artists and during his long career as both artist and writer, one may assume that he must have experienced periods when he felt like the artist of his story; this film certainly conveys the feeling of becoming burnt out and drained of creative energy just as he may himself have experienced it. I have not read the book and my quarrel with the film-script may or may not also extend to it, but I felt that by featuring a long series of very unlikely events, it unfortunately made the film appear to be some sort of dream story or myth rather than a real life drama. In fairness both Lindsay and the scriptwriter may have been aware of this problem and have accepted it as inconsequential. Their object was to convey the reality of loss of artistic vision for any artist, and the final film-script did this very effectively. I found that, when I stopped analysing the mechanical details of the events shown, and concentrated on the emotions with which they were associated, my recognition of the exceptional quality of this film rose sharply.
SPOILER AHEAD: The film's title is misleading for anyone who, like myself, is not familiar with the story - in it Bradley, a 60 year old worldly wise artist, makes no attempt to seduce his new under age model. Clearly if such a thought has ever entered his head he has rejected it instantly. But as Cora continued to model for him over many weeks they develop a very real friendship. The climax of the film is the confrontation which leads to the accidental death of Cora's grandmother (and the highly improbable sequence in which a local policeman decides that this does not even warrant a formal open inquest), Only after this, and right at the end of the film, does Cora show that she is very disturbed by the complete absence of any personal attention being paid to her by her new friend, something she feels must indicate some significant failing or inadequacy on her part. The film closes with Cora, reassured on this point, starting what appears likely to become a successful attempt to seduce him.
Age of Consent tells the story of an artist disconnected from himself and his art. Having been a success, he feels aimless and almost without passion. His solution is to move to a small shack on the coast of the Great Barrier Reef and attempt to renew his interest in painting and eventually life itself. Aside from the collection of unique characters surrounding him, he finds a catalyst for retribution in Cora, a young, sweet but determined young girl who longs to escape from her non-idyllic paradise in which she is controlled by a gin-swilling, ungrateful grandmother who sees her only as the second coming of her mother, the former town prostitute.
What is really great about this film, aside from the gorgeous color cinematography that captures impeccably the grandiose beauty of Australia, is the story of the reawakening of the artist. Certainly this had to inspire Powell, who was himself in need of an awakening and perhaps felt a connection with Bradley Morahan. To his credit, he directs very fine, perhaps not to the degree of perfection as earlier films like The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, 49th Parallel or The Red Shoes, but for such a film as it is he holds it at a fine pace while also keeping our interest as we watch a man push aside all distractions in search of the return of his passion for art and life.
Some feel since this is not in the pantheon of great Powell and Pressburger films that it is mostly dismissive. I disagree. Powell shows us here the need and desire artists have to create and the pains necessary to fulfill that urge. While not of historical or national importance as his earlier films, this is certainly a memorable late career achievement for Michael Powell. If you like his more famous films, this is one to check out if only to understand how an artist becomes rejuvenated.
This is a film needing a lot of audience 'perception'. It's like an old version of 'Lost in Translation' where you need to think beyond the film and imagine the realities where it's exposed at the very end with the frolicking (heck that words reflects my age!) manner in the water. 'Lost in Translation' reflected the same as 'silent whispers'.
All in all a delightful film with a perceptive storyline of 'innocence' on both sides. An older man with a younger woman depicted in a believable 'not cheesy, manipulative nor degrading' manner. Certainly a 'must see'!
Directed by the brilliant Michael Powell ( his first picture since the delightful 'fish out of water' comedy 'They're A Weird Mob' ), this is a lovely, relaxing sort of film which makes you smile rather than laugh. Much of the humour comes from Irish actor Jack MacGowran as Bradley's oddball chum 'Nat Ryan'. It is sad to think he passed away only a few years after it was made. Also good value - and as sexy as Mirren in her own way - is Andonia Katsaros as overweight widow 'Isabel Marley'. After shooting was completed, she emigrated to the U.K., where she appeared in a string of sitcoms such as 'Rising Damp' and 'Two's Company'.
Mason is as excellent as ever but its Mirren's film. The shots of her swimming nude are incredible to look at, not just titillating but genuinely gorgeous. I wish I'd been a friend of hers back then! The music on the version I have is by Stanley Myers but I understand it was not Powell's original choice for a soundtrack. I have not heard the original, but Myers' music is lush, particularly during the aforementioned nude scenes.
When first shown on I.T.V. in the late '70's, the film was screened as part of a series called 'For Adults Only', meaning I had to wait several years to see it. I wonder what Mirren makes of the picture now, given its theme of an old man trying to recapture lost youth by pursuing a beautiful young woman it probably would not go down too well today. Perhaps she should star in a remake, doing the nude swimming while wearing a crown!
Director Michael Powell, working from a thoughtful and perceptive script by Peter Yeldham, astutely captures the anguish and weariness of Bradley's plight, makes the most out of the breathtaking Australian seaside locations, and explores the substantial themes concerning the necessity for passion in any kind of creative endeavor and the potential peril inherent in an older man befriending a much younger woman in a tasteful, but still frank and provocative manner. Mason and Mirren play off each other exceptionally well; they receive sturdy support from Jack MacGowran as raucous deadbeat Nat Kelly, Neva Carr-Glynn as persnickety old bat Ma Ryan, Andonia Katsaros as friendly neighbor Isabel Marley, Harold Hopkins as the horny Ted Farrell, and Frank Thring as pompous gallery owner Godfrey. Hannes Staudinger's vibrant color cinematography provides a beautifully sunny look. Peter Sculthorpe's lush score does the soothing trick. A solid and satisfying movie.
Bradley Monahan, the artist, lives outside the norms and standards of society, but when confronted by teenage Cora Ryan (played the 24 year old Helen Mirren), he finds himself unable to step that far out of bounds. But she will have her way and works every wile in her arsenal to free him from himself.
Fun and sexy!
Now if you are looking for a thought provoking or profound film about the human condition, "Age of Consent" is not for you. But if you already had a few beers on a Friday night and are looking for some light entertainment with a bit of charm, then this film is just right. "Age of Consent" has everything you (as one of the guys) would want to see in a film after getting drunk: a funny dog (Godfrey, who almost steals the show), a naked 24 year old Helen Mirren, lots of nature, some amusing locals, a naked 24 year old Helen Mirren, more nature, marine life and oh yes, getting to see 24 year old Helen Mirren nude! It is not a masterpiece, but I have to admit I watched "Age of Consent" to the end.
James Mason plays Bradley, an aging artist who feels that his work has stagnated. So, on a whim, he decides to relocate from Sydney to the wilds of Queensland in Northeast Australia. There, he lives in a hut and has a simple but lovely life along the beach. There he meets a gorgeous young lady, Cora (Mirren) and she stimulates his creative drive...and he begins making art that he is once again proud of and wants to make more. The problem is that she is very young and he is an older man...and her disgusting grandmother thinks that there's some hanky panky going on...which there isn't...at least for now!
This is a slow but enjoyable film. What I appreciated is that while this is by no means a comedy, little comedic touches were used here and there. I also appreciate how different the film is. Although Mason ALSO starred in "Lolita", the tone and style of the two films are like night and day...and I prefer "Age of Consent".
I do think they went a bit far with the nude scenes, but the girl very nicely played by Helen Mirren was genuinely naive and was suddenly realizing that she had a nice figure. At the same time Cora as the young girl picked up on the fact that she was becoming attracted to this erudite artist with the great voice, of course. - James Mason was the "elderly" artist. She had genuinely fallen for him and was very hurt that he had made their association a "paying" affair. He bought her fish and did not seem personally interested in her. He also painted her in nude scenes.
Cora's aunt? is always wrongly suspecting her of a sexual rendezvous and trails her around. When she falls over a cliff, the girl has little remorse.
During the story we see Cora reject the man in the boat making sexual advances and also the guy who shows up in the cottage who is curious about the artist's paintings. (So we see that Cora is not a person who is promiscuous, nor is the artist, usually.). The painter explains to his overly curious visitor that it is not a personal affair.
All along in an invisible fashion was the title of the film, Age of Consent which meant just that. Cora was supposed to be 17 and for this very reason the painter does not make advances to her.
At the same time she does not think of this and takes it all as a rejection. The ending is quite delightful -- no spoiler intended as she accuses him of not caring about her at all and is in the water - splashing at him and he says that is not true. After the splashing scenes we can well imagine the scenes that ensue.
So as a person who usually likes older films for romance I do admire James Mason and for this reason watched the film. I think he and Helen Mirren made this story into something more than a risqué adventure. The key element at the end was love for both, though the painter was too old for his model. It was all in the perception of both.
And what of the girl he had sex with in the beginning? Well, I guess he was carried away. James Mason later married this girl, Clarissa Kaye in the 70's. I was glad to read that James escaped from his disastrous first marriage; sadly did not marry again until years later.
One thing more - Some people ventured the opinion that the term Age of Consent was outdated but I do not believe this is so. It made a nice undercurrent for the film and its ultimate denouement.
This film is fairly light but contains a good mix of drama and comedy. James Mason does a good job as Bradley although his Australian accent is a bit off... I guess that might be justified if he had been in New York a long time! The young Helen Mirren was charming as Cora even if she was clearly older than her character; not a bad thing given the number of times she is seen undressed. Jack MacGowran provides much of the comedy as Nat; desperate to get some money but not so desperate that he will stay on the island after the attentions of Isabel! The setting adds to the films charm; one can't help feel relaxed watching the blue sea lapping at the island's beach for much of the time. Given that there is a fair amount of nudity the film feels surprisingly innocent; they are just an artist and his model and it is filmed in a way that does not seem leering. This might not be a classic but it is well worth watching.
Bradley Morahan (James Mason), a successful Australian artist based in New York is dissatisfied with his art and his life. He heads for North Queensland and a remote island on the Great Barrier Reef. Here he meets some of the locals including a young girl, Cora (Helen Mirren), whose grandmother is an eccentric old beachcomber.
Despite constant reminders from her grandmother that she is underage, Cora becomes Bradley's model and muse, restoring his belief in his art and himself. "You've given me back my eyes; you've taught me to love things again ", he exclaims at the end of the movie as their relationship blossoms, despite the 30-year age gap.
Based on a novel by Norman Lindsay, the film was made about the time he died. Decades earlier, Norman Lindsay had outraged prudish Australian society with his art, which often featured well-rounded, naked nymphs cavorting with leering satyrs.
But as this movie showed, society had caught up with his ideas and even surpassed them in what was termed permissible - he seemed a bit out of touch by this time, and had outlived his particular crusade against Puritanism.
Unfortunately, the art on show in "Age of Consent" doesn't show much of Lindsay's influence - he was a brilliant artist. Bradley's paintings and sketches in the movie are a combination of the work of two Australian artists: John Coburn produced the strongly patterned New York paintings, and Paul Delprat did the scenes on the island in what could only be called a naïve style.
The biggest connection to Lindsay's art is actually Helen Mirren, who had 'the equipment', as Michael Parkinson once described her voluptuous figure, that would have had kept Norman Lindsay happily working away at his easel for hours.
The restored version of the film also features Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe's lyrical score, which was replaced with one by the more experienced British film composer, Stanley Myers. Interestingly, Myers' score seemed a more revved up version of Sculthorpe's work.
It was pretty much Helen Mirren's first film, but it was a considerable way into James Mason's career. What a presence he had. The mellifluous, honey-toned voice was as hypnotic as ever, despite a half-hearted attempt at an Australian accent. The rest of the cast were mainly Australian, playing characters of varying levels of eccentricity and annoyance. Irish actor Jack MacGowran as Nat Kelly is particularly strident. The comedy in the film is definitely of the broad variety and was no funnier back in 1969 than it is now.
With a particularly messy script, the film is more of a novelty than anything else, but does feature two magnetic actors at opposite ends of their careers - it's worth a look for that alone.