Sirens (1994 film)
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''Sirens'' is a 1994 film, based on the real life artist
Norman Lindsay Norman Alfred William Lindsay (22 February 1879 – 21 November 1969) was an Australian artist, etcher, sculptor, writer, art critic, novelist, cartoonist and amateur boxing, boxer. One of the most prolific and popular Australian artists of his ...
, written and directed by
John Duigan John Duigan (born 19 June 1949) is an Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Ta ...
and set in
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
during the
interwar period In the history of the 20th century, the Interwar period lasted from 11 November 1918 to 1 September 1939 (20 years, 9 months and 21 days), the end of the First World War World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as t ...
. ''Sirens'', along with ''
Four Weddings and a Funeral ''Four Weddings and a Funeral'' is a 1994 British romantic comedy film directed by Mike Newell (director), Mike Newell. It is the first of several films by screenwriter Richard Curtis to feature Hugh Grant, and follows the adventures of Charles ...
'' and ''
Bitter Moon ''Bitter Moon'' is a 1992 Franco-British erotic Eroticism () is a quality that causes sexual feelings, as well as a philosophical contemplation concerning the aesthetic Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy that deals wit ...
'', all released in the US within weeks of one another, were the films that brought
Hugh Grant Hugh John Mungo Grant (born 9 September 1960) is an English actor. His awards include a Golden Globe Award The Golden Globe Awards are accolades bestowed by the 87 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association The Hollywood Fo ...
to the attention of American audiences.


Plot

Tony, an
Anglican priest A priest is a religious leader authorized to perform the sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particu ...
newly arrived in
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
from the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
, is asked to visit the notorious artist
Norman Lindsay Norman Alfred William Lindsay (22 February 1879 – 21 November 1969) was an Australian artist, etcher, sculptor, writer, art critic, novelist, cartoonist and amateur boxing, boxer. One of the most prolific and popular Australian artists of his ...
, out of the
church's Church’s is a high-end English footwear Footwear refers to garments worn on the feet, which originally serves to purpose of protective clothing, protection against adversities of the environment, usually regarding ground textures and temper ...

church's
concern about a
blasphemous Blasphemy is an insult that shows contempt, disrespect, or lack of Reverence (emotion), reverence concerning a deity, a sacred object, or something considered inviolable. Some religions consider blasphemy to be a religious crime. ...
painting Painting is the practice of applying paint Paint is any pigmented liquid A liquid is a nearly incompressible In fluid mechanics Fluid mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the mechanics Mechanics (Ancient ...

painting
of the
crucifix A crucifix (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the R ...

crucifix
that the
artist An artist is a person engaged in an activity related to creating art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipeda ...

artist
plans to exhibit. Estella, the priest's wife, accompanies him on the visit to the artist's bucolic compound in the
Blue MountainsBlue Mountains may refer to: Geography *Blue Mountains (New South Wales), Australia **City of Blue Mountains, a local government area west of Sydney **Blue Mountains Line, a railway line **Blue Mountains National Park **Blue Mountains walking track ...
,
New South Wales New South Wales (abbreviated as NSW) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...
. There, they meet Lindsay's wife, Rose, two
model A model is an informative representation of an object, person or system. The term originally denoted the plan A plan is typically any diagram or list of steps with details of timing and resources, used to achieve an Goal, objective to do somet ...
s, Pru and Sheela, and the maid, Giddy, all of whom pose for Lindsay. Devlin, the half-blind "odd-job" man, also poses for Lindsay. Initially, Tony and Estella are both disturbed by the frank conversations about
human sexuality Human sexuality is the way people experience and express themselves sexually. This involves biological Biology is the natural science Natural science is a branch of science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning ...
in which the members of the bohemian group all participate. They are further startled by the amount of
nudity Nudity is the state of being in which a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use of culture, ...

nudity
they encounter, both in the studio and outside. As the story unfolds, both Tony and Estella find themselves observing the young women bathing naked in a nearby pool and instead of turning instantly away, each pauses to watch. Joining the models to swim one morning, Estella is shocked when they bathe naked (she and the maid have come in swimming costumes). Estella is further shocked when Devlin arrives on the scene and the naked women flirt with him, knowing that he cannot see them. On a later occasion, Estella observes the two models caressing the maid, and joins them in stroking her. She doesn't realise that her husband, walking nearby, observes this and is disturbed by the scene's sexual content. At another time, Estella observes Devlin sunbathing naked, and flees when she realises he knows she is there. Estella is increasingly affected by the sensuality of her surroundings and the bohemian attitude towards sexuality. Her relationship with her husband includes intimacy and commitment, but lacks passion. The surroundings and the lives of the models are siren calls that lead Estella to fantasize with increasing intensity, and (with encouragement from the models) act on a few of her impulses. She suffers morning-after remorse about a late-night visit to Devlin. Influenced by supportive words from her husband, who had witnessed her earlier intimacy with the models, Estella shares a passionate moment with her husband. While Tony is outraged to discover his wife's naked likeness included in one of Lindsay's paintings of a group of naked women, Estella merely observes that it is a good likeness, thus deflating her husband's moral outrage and threats to sue. The next day Tony and Estella leave the bucolic compound. They travel back home on a train in a shared suite and, showing a changed attitude, Estella caresses Tony with her stocking-covered foot. She falls asleep on the train, and dreams she is naked on a cliff with the other women.


Cast

*
Hugh Grant Hugh John Mungo Grant (born 9 September 1960) is an English actor. His awards include a Golden Globe Award The Golden Globe Awards are accolades bestowed by the 87 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association The Hollywood Fo ...
as Reverend Anthony Campion *
Tara Fitzgerald Tara Anne Cassandra Fitzgerald (born 18 September 1967) is an English actress who has appeared in feature films, television, radio and the stage. She won the New York Drama Desk Award The Drama Desk Awards, originally known as the Vernon Rice ...

Tara Fitzgerald
as Estella Campion *
Sam Neill Nigel John Dermot "Sam" Neill (born 14 September 1947) is a New Zealand actor, director, producer and screenwriter. Born in Omagh, Northern Ireland, Neill moved to Christchurch, New Zealand, with his family in 1954. He first achieved recognit ...

Sam Neill
as
Norman Lindsay Norman Alfred William Lindsay (22 February 1879 – 21 November 1969) was an Australian artist, etcher, sculptor, writer, art critic, novelist, cartoonist and amateur boxing, boxer. One of the most prolific and popular Australian artists of his ...
*
Elle Macpherson Eleanor Nancy Macpherson (; née Gow; born ) is an Australian model, businesswoman, television host, and actress. She is known for her record five cover appearances for the ''Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue The ''Sports Illustrated'' Sw ...
as Sheela *
Portia de Rossi Portia Lee James DeGeneres (born Amanda Lee Rogers; 31 January 1973), known professionally as Portia de Rossi, is an Australian-American businesswoman, philanthropist, and former model and actress. She is best known for starring as Nelle Porter ...

Portia de Rossi
as Giddy *
Kate Fischer Tziporah Atarah Malkah (born Katherine Helen Fischer, 30 November 1973) is an Australian-American former model and actress. Early life and career Tziporah Atarah Malkah was born on 30 November 1973 in Adelaide, South Australia, the daughter of ...
as Pru *
Pamela Rabe Pamela Rabe (born Pamela June Koropatnick, 30 April 1959) is a Canadian–Australian actress and theatre director. A graduate of the Playhouse Acting School in Vancouver, Rabe is best known for her appearances in the Australian films ''Sirens (1 ...
as Rose Lindsay *
Ben Mendelsohn Paul Benjamin Mendelsohn (born 3 April 1969) is an Australian actor, who first rose to prominence in Australia for his breakout role in ''The Year My Voice Broke'' (1987). Since then he has had roles in films such as ''Animal Kingdom (film), An ...

Ben Mendelsohn
as Lewis *
John Polson John Polson (born 6 September 1965) is an Australian actor, director and founder of Tropfest. As an actor, Polson's best known role is probably starring opposite Russell Crowe and Jack Thompson (actor), Jack Thompson in ''The Sum of Us (film), ...
as Tom * Mark Gerber as Devlin *
Vincent Ball Vincent Martin Ball Order of Australia, OAM (born 4 December 1923) is an Australian retired character actor of radio, stage and screen, active in the industry for nearly 55 years (with a brief return) firstly in Britain and then his native Aust ...
as Bishop of Sydney


Production

The film was a long-standing project of John Duigan:
The starting point was the idea of doing something on the tension between the church's teaching and the sensual side of life. I have always felt that the church's actual teachings on this issue—since I experienced it first-hand as a boy at school—reflected some biases, particularly against the place and role of women in the church, and the place of women's sensuality. I wanted to deal with these sorts of issues but I also wanted to explore them in a comic context. It's a film about sensuality but if you don't have a humorous aspect, then I think you're missing out on a particular dimension of the sensuality."Interview with John Duigan", ''Signet'', 28 April 1994 and 17 May 1997
accessed 18 November 2012
He originally pitched the project to
Kennedy Miller Kennedy Miller Mitchell (known before 2009 as Kennedy Miller) is an Australian film, television and video game production house in Potts Point Potts Point is a small and densely populated area in inner-city Sydney Sydney ( ; Dharu ...
after making ''Fragments of War'' but they passed.Scott Murray, "John Duigan: Awakening the Dormant", ''Cinema Papers'', November 1989 p31-35, 77 Duigan told film critic
Stephen Farber Stephen or Steven is a common English given name, first name. It is particularly significant to Christianity, Christians, as it belonged to Saint Stephen (Greek ''Stéphanos''), an early disciple and deacon who, according to the Book of Acts, was ...
what drew him to cast Grant: "Hugh has the capacity to be a terrific player of light comedy, in the tradition of
Cary Grant Cary Grant (born Archibald Alec Leach; January 18, 1904November 29, 1986) was an English-American actor. Known for his transatlantic accent The Mid-Atlantic accent, or Transatlantic accent, is a cultivated Accent (sociolinguistics), accent ...

Cary Grant
and
David Niven James David Graham Niven (; 1 March 1910 – 29 July 1983) was a British actor, memoirist, and novelist. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor The Academy Award for Best Actor is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Pictu ...
. He has the same ease and urbanity in the way he moves and talks." Grant told Farber what he brought to the character of the Anglican priest:
I kept looking at the part and wondered how I could crack it, because he was such a straitlaced character. And then I realized that if he thought he was trendy and ''avant-garde'', that added a whole new swing to it. I see him as quite the star of his theological college, probably quite daring with his Turkish cigarettes. And I imagine that he even makes the occasional sexual reference in his conversation after a couple of glasses of sherry. But confronted with the real McCoy, in the form of Elle Macpherson without her clothes, he's hopeless.
Most of the film is set at what is now the
Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum The Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum is a heritage-listed former residence and farmlet and now art gallery, tourist attraction and museum located at 14-20 Norman Lindsay Crescent, in the Blue Mountains (New South Wales), Blue Mountains town of ...
, which was the original home of the real-life Lindsay with sequences filmed at the railway station at
Mount Victoria, New South Wales Mount Victoria (Postcodes in Australia, postcode: 2786) is a small township in the Blue Mountains (New South Wales), Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. It is the westernmost village in the City of Blue Mountains, located about by roa ...
.


Reception

Janet Maslin Janet R. Maslin (born August 12, 1949) is an American journalist, best known as a film A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art The visual arts are art forms such as painting Pai ...
of ''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' is an American daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership. Founded in 1851, the ''Times'' has since won List of Pulitzer Prizes awarded to The New York Times, 132 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of a ...

The New York Times
'' wrote: "''Sirens'' is best watched as a
soft-core Softcore pornography or softcore porn, is commercial photography, still photography or film that has a pornographic or erotica, erotic component but is less sexually graphic and intrusive than hardcore pornography, defined by a lack of visual s ...
, high-minded daydream about the liberating sensuality of art...has an archly intelligent performance from Mr. Grant, who turns the priest's embarrassment into a real comic virtue. Ms. Fitzgerald, who made a strong first impression in ''
Hear My Song ''Hear My Song'' is a 1991 comedy film written by the actors Peter Chelsom (who also directed) and Adrian Dunbar (who plays the lead) based on the story of Irish tenor Josef Locke. It was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 1993 BAFTA ...
'', is again a forceful presence, even when acting out the story's giddy erotic fantasies." Maslin said the film "often verges on silliness and desperately overworks the symbolic importance of snakes. Still, it's hard not to enjoy a film whose most intellectually daring character—Mr. Neill's stern Lindsay—claims to have spent a previous life in
Atlantis Atlantis ( grc, Ἀτλαντὶς νῆσος, "island of Atlas") is a fiction Fiction generally is a narrative form, in any media (communication), medium, consisting of people, events, or places that are imagination, imaginary—in other ...

Atlantis
."
Hal Hinson Hal Hinson is an American film critic who wrote for ''The Washington Post ''The Washington Post'' (also known as the ''Post'' and, informally, ''WaPo'') is an American daily newspaper A newspaper is a Periodical literature, periodica ...
of ''
The Washington Post ''The Washington Post'' (also known as the ''Post'' and, informally, ''WaPo'') is an American daily newspaper A newspaper is a Periodical literature, periodical publication containing written News, information about current events and is ...

The Washington Post
'' was less forgiving: he called the ideas presented by the film "warmed-over
D. H. Lawrence David Herbert Lawrence (11 September 1885 – 2 March 1930) was an English writer and poet A poet is a person who creates poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literature t ...
" and the film, a "peculiar, not entirely undesirable sort of
art-house An art film is typically an independent film, aimed at a niche market rather than a mass market audience. It is "intended to be a serious, artistic work, often experimental and not designed for mass appeal", "made primarily for aesthetic reason ...
hybrid, like a marriage between ''
Masterpiece Theatre ''Masterpiece'' (formerly known as ''Masterpiece Theatre'') is a drama anthology television series produced by WGBH-TV, WGBH Boston. It premiered on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) on January 10, 1971. The series has presented numerous acclaim ...
'' and ''
Baywatch ''Baywatch'' is an American Drama (film and television), action drama television series about Lifeguard, lifeguards who patrol the beaches of Los Angeles County, California and Hawaii, starring David Hasselhoff. It was created by Michael Berk ...
''", citing "scenes, like the one in which Estella is brought to orgasm by the tender, knowing hands of a blind laborer,
hat A collection of 18th and 19th century men's beaver felt hats A hat is a head covering which is worn for various reasons, including protection against weather conditions, ceremonial reasons such as university graduation, religious reasons, safet ...

hat
are almost laughable."
Roger Ebert Roger Joseph Ebert (; June 18, 1942 – April 4, 2013) was an American Film criticism, film critic, film historian, journalist, screenwriter, and author. He was a film critic for the ''Chicago Sun-Times'' from 1967 until his death in 2013. In ...

Roger Ebert
, guessing incorrectly that the inspiration for Neill's character was
Augustus John Augustus Edwin John (4 January 1878 – 31 October 1961) was a Welsh people, Welsh painter, drawing, draughtsman, and etcher. For a time he was considered the most important artist at work in Britain: Virginia Woolf would remark that by 1908 the ...
, noted that ''Sirens'' has "no particular plot"; he also called it a "good-hearted, whimsical movie which makes no apologies for the beauty of the human body and yet never feels sexually obsessed."


Year-end lists

* Top 10 (listed alphabetically, not ranked) – William Arnold, ''
Seattle Post-Intelligencer The ''Seattle Post-Intelligencer'' (popularly known as the ''Seattle P-I'', the ''Post-Intelligencer'', or simply the ''P-I'') is an online newspaper An online newspaper (or electronic news or electronic news publication) is the electronic pub ...
'' * Best "sleepers" (not ranked) – Dennis King, ''
Tulsa World The ''Tulsa World'' is the daily newspaper for the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and primary newspaper for the northeastern and eastern portions of Oklahoma. Tulsa World Media Company is part of Lee Enterprises. The new owners announced in January 202 ...

Tulsa World
'' * Honorable mention – Glenn Lovell, ''
San Jose Mercury News ''The Mercury News'' (formerly ''San Jose Mercury News'', often locally known as ''The Merc'') is a morning daily newspaper A newspaper is a containing written and is often typed in black ink with a white or gray background. Newspapers ...

San Jose Mercury News
'' * Honorable mention – Michael Mills, ''
The Palm Beach Post ''The Palm Beach Post'' is an American daily newspaper A newspaper is a periodical Periodical literature (also called a periodical publication or simply a periodical) is a category of serial Serial may refer to: Arts, entertainment, a ...
'' * Honorable mention –
Michael MacCambridge Michael MacCambridge (born June 21, 1963) is an United States, American author, journalist and TV commentator. He is the author, co-author, or editor of 8 books, including the acclaimed ''America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured ...
, ''
Austin American-Statesman The ''Austin American-Statesman'' is the major daily newspaper for Austin Austin (, ) is the capital city A capital or capital city is the holding primary status in a , , , , or other , usually as its seat of the government. A capi ...
''


Box office

''Sirens'' grossed $2,780,839 at the box office in Australia, which is equivalent to $ in dollars. The film also earned £2,640,396 at the UK box office.Olins, Rufus. "Mr Fixit of the British Screen." Sunday Times [London, England] 24 Sept. 1995: 9[S]. The Sunday Times Digital Archive.
Web. 29 March 2014.


Home media

''Sirens'' was released on
DVD The DVD (common abbreviation for Digital Video Disc or Digital Versatile Disc) is a digital Digital usually refers to something using digits, particularly binary digits. Technology and computing Hardware *Digital electronics Digital elect ...

DVD
by
Miramax Films Miramax, LLC (also known as Miramax Films) is an American entertainment company known for producing and distributing films and television shows. Its headquarters are located in Los Angeles Los Angeles ( ; xgf, Tovaangar; es, Los Á ...
in May 1999 and
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment Echo Bridge Entertainment is an American independent distribution company. It acquires and distributes feature films, scripted and non-scripted series, documentaries, and children's programming for home video, digital and television in the United S ...
in May 2011. Umbrella Entertainment released ''Sirens'' on DVD in May 2010 and later, on
Blu-ray The Blu-ray Disc (BD), often known simply as Blu-ray, is a digital Digital usually refers to something using digits, particularly binary digits. Technology and computing Hardware *Digital electronics Digital electronics is a field of elec ...
, in March 2013. The ''Umbrella Entertainment'' disc releases are compatible with all region codes and includes special features such as the theatrical trailer, script, press clippings, stills gallery, an ABC Lively Arts interview with Norman Lindsay, an informal home movie chat with Hugh Grant and John Duigan, and audio commentary with John Duigan and Sue Milliken.


See also

* ''Age of Consent'' (film) *
Cinema of Australia Cinema may refer to: Film * Cinematography Cinematography (from ancient Greek κίνημα, ''kìnema'' "movement" and γράφειν, ''gràphein'' "to write") is the art of Film, motion picture (and more recently, electronic video camera) ...

Cinema of Australia


References


External links

* *
Norman Lindsay Gallery Home Page
*
Sirens
at the National Film and Sound Archive
''Sirens''
at Oz Movies {{DEFAULTSORT:Sirens (Film) 1994 comedy-drama films 1994 films Australian comedy-drama films Australian sex comedy films Australian films British comedy-drama films British erotic drama films British sex comedy films British films 1990s English-language films Films directed by John Duigan Films scored by Rachel Portman Films set in New South Wales Australian independent films British independent films 1994 independent films 1990s sex comedy films 1990s erotic drama films 1994 comedy films 1994 drama films