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Sirens Review

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When a painting is termed blasphemous, a young minister and his wife visit the artist... and the three sexually playful models living with him.

★★★★★

“I like to keep abreast” stammers Hugh Grant’s starchy vicar in Sirens’ opening scene, patently unaware of what he is saying. This is a film that likes to keep a breast, more than one, in fact, and there are plenty of bottoms, too, and some nice, frilly underwear. The question is: does this make for more than just a chintzy executive relief for those too embarrassed to rent proper porn?
There was some unnecessary hoo-hah at the time of Sirens’ release, partly down to the fact that it was the first celluloid sighting of Liz Hurley’s boyfriend after Four Weddings, but equally due to the screen debut of his supermodel co-star Elle MacPherson, or “The Body” to give her her full, media coined epithet. In fact, the very tall Australian clothes-horse and fitness video guru-ess isn’t(ital) a truly atrocious thespian. She plays Sheela, the most manipulative of three live-in nude models employed by controversial painter Norman Lindsey (Neil), with a sultry arrogance, commanding attention for more than just her frequent nudity.
Our aforementioned cleric has been despatched to Australia to talk Lindsey out of submitting a blasphemous painting to a travelling exhibition — this being the prudish 1930s and all — and he and his prim young wife Estella (Fitzgerald) find themselves initially offended by, then attracted to, and ultimately seduced by the romping, liberated, barefoot (and the rest) trio. If the story is a standard period rites of passage that unfolds at a fairly predictable pace (Fitzgerald’s climactic liaison with the horny-handed, blind manservant can be seen coming a mile off), at least it’s all done in a picturesque way, and the best possible taste.
There’s layers of irony here, the central debate raised by Lindsey’s work — is it art or is it porn? — might also be levelled at the film itself. Director Duigan over-salutes Nic Roeg with heavy-handed use of symbolic inserts (a phallic snake knocks a cuppa over, numerous antipodean fauna traverse the scene with Edenesque allusions), but manages to painlessly pitch the action somewhere between Merchant Ivory fancy dress ball and Castlemaine XXXX ad. When all is said and done, Sirens is a harmless, occasionally intriguing, confection offering just that bit more than an eyeful of Elle in the buff.

Good, but not great.