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International To My Eyes...SIRENS (1994) From Umbrella Entertainment in Australia (1 Viewer)

Dick

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sirens.jpg


This, I think, is a vastly underrated comedy, about a young clergyman and his wife (Hugh Grant and Tara Fitzgerald) who move to Australia from London, only to receive a directive from their church to travel to the mountains of the outback to try to dissuade the controversial artist Norman Lindsay (Sam Neill) from displaying his painting, "Crucified Venus," which the church feels is blasphemous.

When the couple arrives at Lindsay's beautiful retreat, they are stunned to discover a married man surrounded by beautiful young models who spend most of their time nude in his studio, in very suggestive poses. Grant and Fitzgerald are both devout Christians and quite reserved about their sexuality, so their spending several days and nights in the company of such open and uninhibited women (and a male handy man) can't help but make them squirm.

But after Fitzgerald gets to observe and converse with the models, reluctantly at first, she finds herself being drawn in by the erotic activities of these "sirens," and begins to get more in touch with her suppressed libido. This, of course, alarms her husband, and creates conflict in their marriage.

The character of Norman Lindsay actually lived, and did paint such material. The Neill and Fitzgerald characters are fictitious, but are necessary to allow the audience a view of the religious hypocrisy and fear regarding sexuality. The film has a very leisurely pace, but along the way there are superb cinematography and performances. It is not boring (to me, or to Siskel and Ebert and many other critics). There is copious male and female frontal nudity, presented so casually as to be completely inoffensive for most viewers. Numerous glimpses of these sirens, especially that of the tall and elegant Elle MacPherson, cavorting and posing nude, are graphic but playful, and MacPherson turns out to be a delightful actress. There is one major character arc (Fitzgerald's) that holds the film together well, although it otherwise seems anecdotal. Then there is Rachel Portman's hauntingly memorable score, one of my favorites. The atmosphere is palpable...it has a dreamy, sometimes arousing mood, for women as well as men, I would guess, with postcard-perfect locales and night sequences that seethe -- drip -- with an ambiance of a fever dream.

On to the Australian Umbrella Blu-ray release. It's not terrific, but it's certainly watchable. The big problem I have with it is the elimination of grain, and not well enough done to preserve fine detail and edges. Sitting twelve feet back, it looks okay. The color is pretty awesome and there are good black levels. Any closer, the picture looks soft. Too bad, considering how gorgeous the visuals would be if handled correctly. The sound is dts 2.0 mono, and is acceptable in delivering the dialog and music score.

On the extras side, things are better. There is a very informative commentary by director John Duigan (THE JOURNEY OF AUGUST KING, LAWN DOGS). Also there is a revealing interview between Duigan and actor Hugh Grant, plus an interview with Norman Lindsay himself, who died in 1969. There is a stills gallery, press clippings and script in PDF, and the theatrical trailer.

This is an all-region release. The problem is, the disc isn't easy to purchase. The Blu-ray is not currently listed on the Umbrella site, just the DVD. Amazon has a different Blu from an unidentified company <https://www.amazon.com/Sirens-Hugh-...e=UTF8&qid=1517764530&sr=1-12&keywords=sirens> but the 20th Anniversary copy I own is apparently available only on eBay at the time of this writing.

Despite the DNR issue, I would recommend seeking this movie out. It's just so much fun and a visual eyeful that it is well-worth adding to your library, even if this purchase is a place-holder until a better (hopefully domestic) disc emerges. In the States the film was distributed theatrically by Mirimax, and I believe Disney owned this for a time and issued a release on DVD. It would stand as that company's most sexually graphic movie in its catalog. I don't know who owns it now.
 
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Peter McM

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Thanks for your write-up on this forgotten guilty pleasure of a movie. I've been wanting to replace my copy of the non-anamorphic studio DVD, which dates back to the infancy of the format. I have the R2 blu-ray in my Amazon shopping cart ($9.60 as of this post) but wish a boutique label like Criterion or Kino would give it the attention it deserves.
 

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