Two's Views Film Review
by: Mary Baker & J. C. Adamson

Sirens


Synopsis

Director: John Duigan 
Cast: Hugh Grant, Tara Fitzgerald, Sam Neill, Elle MacPherson, Portia De Rossi, Kate Fischer,
Pamela Rabe 

Set in early twentieth century Australia. Estella (Tara Fitzgerald) and her pastor husband Antony
(Hugh Grant) go on a mission to the estate of artist Norman Lindsay (Sam Neill). Lindsay creates paintings that proper Christians do not like. Antony and Estella try to influence him to remove one particular work from an exhibit. 

Review

JC: I can't wait to see Sirens again. I don't remember when I've had so much fun at a first-rate film. Let's each get a date and go Saturday night.

Mary: Fat chance! Once was enough. Sirens was very sensual and erotic in a dreamy sort of way but really no big deal. The fact that the [preview] audience was 75% single men worried me a little before the film started, but otherwise it was OK.

JC: Probably we should warn our readers: There is nothing bashful about this movie. It is full of vivid, sexual, sensual images. It is most surely not profane, not crude, not lewd. It is very seductive. There is almost no plot in Sirens, but plot isn't what's important here. Director John Duigan tells this story with images. Erotic, graceful visual images. Compelling music and sound images. Delightful metaphors, and symbols. He weaves a rich tapestry of sensual textures.

Mary: The images are all of the above but it's almost like director Duigan decided that everyone in the film should play dress up and then made a film about them both dressing up and then undressing. It's just a film about someone's erotic fantasy. It's soft porn in the sense that it evokes sexual responses that the viewer hopefully will have control over.

JC: It would be pornographic if it made no valid statements and asked no probing questions. It would be pornographic if its sexual scenes were gratuitous. But Sirens has important themes, and its sexual images are integral with those themes. If we take our Victorian prudery with us to the screening, we do exactly as Estella does in the film. And we'll have that Victorian morality confronted just as she did. Confrontation is a theme or motif in this work. Civilization confronts nature. Morality confronts license. Sexuality confronts chastity. The artist character, Norman Lindsay once says he enjoys opposition, because it clears the mind. That kind of mind-brightening is what Sirens does.

Mary: This film doesn't address anything but an artist's obsession with shocking the world and his addiction to hedonism. There is nothing new in this movie. If you have an iota of Victorian prudery, don't see it. The emotions it arouses in the viewer are the same emotions sexual images have aroused in human beings from time immemorial. What the viewer needs to pay attention to is whether or not he/she chooses those particular emotions.

JC: And there's the key confrontation. We all have sexual emotions. Sometimes we enjoy, even utilize them. Often our own emotions frighten or shock us. Sirens puts all that denial and ambivalence on the table. What I find remarkable about this film is that it does what only the visual arts can do. It's visual, not literal. It goes to the heart, not to the head. It takes us to the seat of our emotions, and works at that level. It's like a painting. It doesn't communicate in words.

Mary: This film doesn't deserve this kind of glorification. It is a beautiful distraction, that's all. If the viewer chooses, Sirens will go to more than just the heart or the viscera. You see a film like this because you know what may happen emotionally. Remember the old joke about Playboy magazine? People said they read it because the articles were good. This is secondary to the primary reason they read and LOOK at Playboy. That is to evoke in themselves a certain emotional response. Sirens works the same way, except often you don't know what you're going to see. I just don't want our gentle readers to be surprised.

JC: If this were just porn, there would be nothing to choose. There is art here. Sirens is also fun. It has funny moments, but I didn't see it as a comedy. It's just fun. It tells of a confrontation between art and righteousness art wins. Hallelujah. I had a good time, and it cleared my mind. 

Mary: HA! I bet.

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1996, J. C. Adamson & Mary Baker


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