Age of Consent (1969)

Genre: Comedy/Drama

Bradley Morahan (James Mason) is a successful artist who wants to escape the hustle and bustle of New York to work on some new paintings. This takes him to the other side of the world and Australia.

He rents a shack on a small secluded island, hoping to be cut off from everyone except for the company of his pet dog. This all changes when he meets Cora (Helen Mirren), a pretty young girl who spends her days hunting or stealing food. She is desperately trying to save the $100 so she can escape her drunk domineering grandmother and become a hairdresser in Brisbane.

Bradley models Cora in the sand and she soon finds that she has an interest in being his artist model. When Bradley offers her money, she’s more than willing and isn’t afraid to shed her clothing.

Obstacles to this happy relationship appear and it soon looks as though Bradley will not get his pictures completed and Cora will not save her money. Their relationship has to be put on hold.

This is charming movie which was beautifully filmed on Dunk Island on the Great Barrier Reef by British movie director Michael Powell (ONE OF OUR AIRCAFT ARE MISSING, PEEPING TOM) and incidentally produced by himself and James Mason.

Twenty-four year old Helen Mirren is excellent as the teenage Cora – beautiful and buxom. In the beginning she is very tom-boyish as she hunts and frolics on the beaches. It isn’t until Cora sees the paintings that she begins to re-evaluate her body and feminine beauty and this gives her a new direction in life. The scenes are very liberating as she poses naked, playing in the water during the artist’s breaks between painting.

Helen Mirren would pose nude again a few years later for another artist in Ken Russell’s Savage Messiah (1972). This was a biography on the French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.

Irish actor, Jack MacGowran, is great as Bradley’s unwanted guest, Nad. He is one of the supporting characters who bring some humor to the film, as does Harold Hopkins as Ted. He is the young boat owner who is keen to win over the affections of Carla and seems to wear the smallest pair of shorts in the Southern Hemisphere.
The underlying theme of this movie is the body. When it’s not with Cora naked, then it is Nad when he is unexpectedly caught skinny dipping or when he goes to meet the neighbor, Isabel Marley, and being first greeted by her behind as she works in the garden, or Ted’s muscular body. All the while we are surrounded by Bradley’s nude sketches of Cora. It wouldn’t be of any surprise that this was adapted from a story by the artist Norman Lindsay, who painted similar nudes.

Age of Consent has been released on DVD as a double-bill with Powell and Pressburger's earlier 1946 fantasy Stairway to Heaven aka: A Matter of Life and Death.

If you get the chance, watch Age of Consent, it's a great film about relationships and freedom.

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