(Air Date: Week Of 4/6/94)
It's been so long since I've seen contemporary movies with sexual themes free of violence or devastating consequences that I was beginning to wonder if they were still being made. "Sirens" is certainly the most low-key sexual fantasy film that you're likely to see this year. It's partly based on the life of Australian artist Norman Lindsay, who died in 1968 at the age of ninety. For most of Lindsay's career, his explicit works shocked the people of his own time.
John Duigen's fictional film takes a look at a 1930's weekend in the life of the Lindsay family and three of their models. Anthony and Estella Campion, a fictitious twit of a minister and his repressed wife, come to pay a call in order to persuade the artist to withdraw his works from a major exhibition. The twit is played by the devilishly attractive High Grant with tongue firmly in cheek ("Call me Tony") and his wife by the sultry Tara Fitzgerald, last seen in "Hear My Song". True to the artist's code of never putting an amorous hand on a model, Sam Neill's Lindsay is far from the lecherous hedonist expected by the Campions. He is, rather, a devoted husband, kindly father and disciplined worker. His feelings are expressed entirely in his art, whereas the women who pose for him express their sexuality in their own lives. (They're portrayed by supermodels Elle MacPherson, Kate Fischer and Portia de Rossi, by far the best actress of the three.)
The entire Lindsay clan are looked on with suspicion by the townspeople, but there is no predictable clash. Menacing snakes and spiders crawl through the film, but they do not destroy the Lindsay's garden of Eden, either. Instead, we read about their mischief in the newspapers where they're predictably harming the good people who predict disaster for the Lindsays. "Sirens", seen from Estella's perspective, reveals how she is seduced into having a rollicking good time and, surprise, no one gets punished, goes mad, or brandishes a weapon. Beautifully photographed eroticism for its own sake, with a few rattled conceptions about Bohemians and the prevailing social order is all you will get from "Sirens", and that's just fine, thank you. For doom and gloom, you will have to choose another movie from the dozens now occupying the SEX=TROUBLE file.
Copyright 1994 Monica Sullivan
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