Age Of Consent (1969)

MICHAEL POWELL

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB

Australia, 1969.  Nautilus Productions.  Screenplay by , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by , .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .

James Mason co-produced this gorgeously sunny tale of love and art shot in Queensland, Australia. He plays a successful painter who reacts to a successful gallery showing in New York, complete with gauche American collectors, by returning to his homeland and setting up in a rustic cove by the beach. He struggles for artistic inspiration until the appearance of a local girl (Helen Mirren, young and dewy) sparks his interest: she collects plants and animals from the sea to sell while wearing skimpy rags, saving up her money for when she can go to Brisbane and get away from her drunk, abusive grandmother. He offers her a job posing for him once he realizes that she will save his declining work, and she is awakened to herself as a vibrant, sexual woman thanks to his attention; the tension that results from the lack of consummation of their physical attraction, however, brings about trouble in many forms.

The two leads have no chemistry and never actually create more actual tension than the odd hint of frustration: Mason was one hell of a class act performer, but the idea of him trying to express base animal urges for someone even as wholly ravishing as Mirren is a noble but unfortunate attempt. This is Michael Powell’s last feature and one of his most notable and best remembered post-Peeping Tom works, and while the atmosphere is a bit more slack than it should be, it is highly enjoyable thanks to the bright photography and superb performances.

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