Remember a couple years ago when C. Jerry Kutner was singing the praises of Powell’s AGE of CONSENT right here in Bright Lights After Dark?
Both the films on this “set” should have long ago received the deluxe Criterion treatment ala Red Shoes, Black Narcissus and Tales of Hoffman and Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and Peeping Tom. I don’t know what spooked Criterion off the Powell scent, but I’m glad, these Sony “Collector’s Choice” director series are a-okay! Let Criterion keep releasing every last thing Kurosawa ever sneezed at. The ghost of Toshiro Mifune is laughin’ at them now! Criterion, Sony stole your big British thunda!
And yo, Mirren got phat back in CONSENT! She’s in her film debut and pleasantly “ripe” and already good enough as an actress that if you ask her to play a pouty uber-earthy seductive urchin (DR. NO’s Ursula Andress as drawn by R. Crumb) she can deliver more than the goods. She can be a character richly shadowed with complexly crosshatched emotions AND sexy like some little beach strumpet. She’s got that same salty sexuality here as she does in THE COOK, THE THIEF, THE WIFE & HER LOVER, which is to say, she’s sexy enough to knock your front teeth out and not in that stupid late night cinemax way, but in the “real” way, of really having sex with real people in real time. Ripe, that’s the word. And the art James Mason creates onscreen is actually good… you know, as opposed to the incompetent scrawls from Michel Piccoli in Jacque Rivette’s similar but vastly inferior (and overpraised) LE BELLE NOISEUSE, which I hate beyond words, even if it does have my sweet Lady Jane Birkin in it. Mason’s art has a flowery, hippy-ish looseness. It’s joyous! And yet not corny. Is there any better way to describe the bulk of Powell’s film work?
And what makes the film double interesting is it openly promotes the relationship between Mason’s older bearded artist and Mirren’s underage beachcomber! And as Kutner so aptly puts it in his Feb 2007 entry:
Age of Consent was conceived as the antithesis to Kubrick’s Lolita (1962) which also – not coincidentally – starred Mason. Where in Lolita the relationship between an older man and a young girl is a source of tragedy for everyone concerned, in Age of Consent, the relationship is mutually healing.
Why is Mason able to get with tha gamin here and not in LOLITA? It’s art, baby. The painter will always get the girl because he can sublimate, he doesn’t “need” her, he just needs inspiration, which she provides just by “being.” It’s joyful waching Mason, who has suffered and hissed through his teeth as countless villains, drug addicts and resentful lovers, to here be simply a happy go lucky Aussie painter who by the end of the film is surrounded by pop art explosions of his own devising, and has “gotten his groove back.” Thank god there’s at least one vividly rendered artist in cinema whose not either a pretentious ass or a jackbooted martyr. Piccoli’s tortured hack would still be brooding over which brush to use by the time Mason’s on his 54th painting.
On the down side, there is some annoying comic releif with some gambling addict townie who Mason lets crash with him, and a terribly shrill old woman occasionally steals, drinks gin and beats people with a cane. These characters suffer from being much too broadly etched (Pressburger probably would have prevented this had he been on hand) but damn it, that’s what “chapter skip” is for.
We will know who the tru critics are if they remember to include this earlybird special in their “Best DVDs of 2009” lists next December. My list is already done. Don’t even bother releasing anything else! I love you, Sony, you big beautiful faceless corporation!