Mirren Becomes Mason's Muse

Helen Mirren and James Mason in Age of Consent (1969)

Up to now I had only seen some of director Michael Powell's pre 1950 movies and so when I watched his last movie "Age of Consent" which was released at the end of the 60s it was a bit of a surprise. It was a surprise because firstly "Age of Consent" is very different to his earlier works but yet it was also a surprise for being just as fascinating. Here we have an almost "Lolita" style storyline as we have an artist seeking to rejuvenate his creative spirit finding a teenage girl his muse and the way things play out between these two people is both humorous and touching. Of course there is the fact that "Age of Consent" also features a young Helen Mirren naked in numerous scenes but it is not the reason to watch.

Artist Bradley Morahan (James Mason - Journey to the Center of the Earth) has become frustrated as an artist especially when he feels he has got into the rut of creating art which sells rather than as a sense of expressionism. It is why he decides to return to his native Australia and after a week in Queensland where he meets catches up with his annoying old friend Nat Kelly (Jack MacGowran) he heads to an isolated island where he hopes some solitary time will rejuvenate his creative juices. Disappointed to discover the island already has a few people living on it he finds joy when he meets the beautiful Cora (Helen Mirren - State of Play) who becomes his muse as they spend hours together with Cora posing naked for him.

Helen Mirren as Cora Ryan in Age of Consent (1969)

In many ways "Age of Consent" is a curious movie because with it being a mix of comedy and drama it often has a strange tone. Scenes where we see Bradley being annoyed by Nat are comical yet then you have something shocking like one dog attacking another and to be honest it is often such a shift that it doesn't always flow.

It also means that it is hard to make sense of it all, what is the purpose of "Age of Consent", is there even a purpose and was director Michael Powell just delivering a movie for the sake of it. I don't think he was, I think there is an almost "Lolita" style storyline going on here as Bradley deep down is turned on by Cora but hides it behind having her as his artistic muse, forcefully denying anything when anyone suggests anything inappropriate between them. And this in turn makes it interesting because Cora enjoys the attention and compliments of Bradley and so when he doesn't try anything, staying behind his artist's pad she feels confused as to whether he likes her or just likes her body to draw.

In a way because we have other things thrown in from Cora's drunk grandmother who raised her to the man hungry Miss Marley who lives on the Island it becomes at times a bit of a mismatch. Comedy follows something quite serious and occasionally strange but yet at its heart that storyline of Cora and Bradley is still there. And to be honest it is quite touching in the way Cora evolves from being a tough little thief to a girl who realises she is beautiful and becomes more confident and feminine when around Bradley.

Now whilst James Mason delivers another nuanced performance as Bradley, delivering the aspects of an artist frustrated by the real world it is Helen Mirren who grabs your attention. Now it has to be said that a naked Helen Mirren cavorting around is a beautiful sight but it is not the only reason she grabs your attention. No her actual performance is lovely as you watch this young girl blossom and realise she is attractive, this may not be the dramatic performance of Mirren in more recent years but it is still a very good performance full of little touches.

What this all boils down to is that "Age of Consent" is a bit of a strange movie because of its strange tone shifts from comedy to drama. But beneath this strangeness is actually quite a touching story of an artist and his young muse who blossoms thanks to his attention.

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