May 31, 2013

filmsgraded.com:
Sirens (1993)
Grade: 61/100

Director: John Duigan
Stars: Hugh Grant, Tara Fitzgerald, Sam Neill

What it's about. This erotic Australian independent film has received surprisingly little attention over the years, perhaps because it doesn't quite qualify as soft porn, yet has so much nudity and sexuality that it can't be shown on broadcast television. Mainstream viewers find it difficult to take seriously, though the themes are credible and the script is decidedly above average.

Set in the 1920s, the film stars brunette hottie Tara Fitzgerald as the humorless wife of hunky vicar Hugh Grant. Grant is dispatched from England to Australia by the church to try to prevent controversial artist Norman Lindsay (Sam Neill) from including a blasphemous paiting within a public exhibit of his work. Grant takes Fitzgerald with him, and you would too if you were him.

Lindsay's studio is in a remote Australian village that dislikes strangers and disapproves of Lindsay. Not that he cares, particularly since Lindsay is surrounded by four women with fabulous figures, three of whom pose nude for him on a daily basis. They include his wife Rose (Pamela Rabe) and statuesque models Sheela (Elle Macpherson) and Pru (Kate Fischer). Giddy (Portia de Rossi, making her film debut, currently the wife of Ellen DeGeneres) also models but is presently too inhibited to pose nude. Also there are Lindsay's bratty preteenaged twin daughters Jane (Julia Stone) and Honey (Ellie MacCarthy), and male model Devlin (Mark Gerber). The latter, a beefy stud, is said to be both blind and dumb.

The intense and mildly arrogant Lindsay proves a gracious host to Grant and Fitzgerald. Lindsay and Grant inevitably argue but without the heat expected from such an encounter. They are aware that neither side will change camps, and instead concentrate on honing their respective positions.

Meanwhile, Fitzgerald is brought into the sensual world of the three close-knit models, Sheela, Pru, and Giddy. The first two are completely decadent, while Giddy claims virtue. She nonetheless admits a strong attraction to Devlin, who prefers newcomer Fitzgerald. To her surprise and consternation, Fitzgerald develops sexual fantasies for Devlin, though she can't be considered repressed due to her sex life with her husband.

Because it is a movie, the railroad track is damaged, "forcing" Grant and Fitzgerald to remain in the hospitality of Lindsay for several days. Will Fitzgerald be seduced by the free love atmosphere of the models, and will it impact her marriage to Grant?

How others will see it. Despite the presence of A-list actors Grant and Neill, Sirens had a marginal box office. It did receive generally favorable reviews, and was nominated for three Australian Film Institute awards.

Today at imdb.com, however, the film has a fairly low user vote total of 6,735. The user rating is remarkably low, 4.9 out of 10, among viewers under 30, who apparently roll their cynical eyes while watching it, apart from any salacious pleasure they make take from the frequent display of hottie hooters.

The user ratings do improve to a still low 5.7 among viewers aged 18 to 29. Surprisingly, older audiences, who are often characterized as prudish, give the film the highest grade, 6.3 out of 10.

Sirens has developed a modest cult following, and a few actually note its intelligent insight on sexuality versus morality and religion, but a majority of viewers are bored with its slow pace and regard its sexuality and nudity as ridiculous.

How I felt about it. Norman Lindsay is not a fictional character. Indeed, in Australia he is among the most famous painters, illustrators, and writers. He lived to the ripe age of 90 and remains controversial today, though more for his now politically incorrect caricatures of Jews, Asians, Germans, etc. Lindsay's work does feature nude women though perhaps not with the obsession depicted in the film. His "Crucified Venus" was drawn in 1912, about a dozen years before the film takes place.

Sirens features several shots of a slithering snake at the Lindsay estate. Normally, I am not an adherent of searching for symbolism within films, because if you do, you will end up finding it everywhere, usually where it exists only in the eye of the beholder.

But the snake is clearly symbolic. Does it represent evil, sin, the Devil, or more innocuously, sexual freedom? I suggest the latter. In this movie, Grant loses the argument with Lindsay, but still comes out ahead, since his wife is more liberated and loving than before. Sheela, Pru, and Giddy are free to seek sexual pleasure in any corner, whether it is from each other, male model Devlin, or admiring local yokels Lewis (Ben Mendelsohn) and Tom (John Polson).

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