Sirens (Umbrella Ent) (1993)

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Released 12-May-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Director John Duigan and producer Sue Milliken
More…-ABC Lively Arts interview with Norman Lindsay
Featurette-Informal home movie chat - Hugh Grant and John Duigan
Script-Script and Press Clippings PDFs
Gallery-Photo
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 90:21
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:44) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By John Duigan
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Hugh Grant
Tara Fitzgerald
Sam Neill
Elle Macpherson
Portia de Rossi
Kate Fischer
Pamela Rabe
Ben Mendelsohn
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Rachel Portman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Australia, 1930s. Newly arrived, progressive minded English clergyman Anthony Campion (Hugh Grant) is asked by his Bishop to visit painter Norman Lindsay (Sam Neill) at his home in the Blue Mountains and to try to persuade Lindsay to withdraw one of his paintings from a public exhibition. The Bishop can accept the plentiful nude figures, male and female, in the paintings, merely declaring them vulgar; what has got his ire is the painting of the naked Crucified Venus which he considers blasphemous. Campion, accompanied by his wife Estella (Tara Fitzgerald), travels to Springwood where they stay with the Lindsays, meeting Lindsay’s wife Rose (Pamela Rabe) and their two young children. Also in residence are three models, Sheela (Elle MacPherson), Pru (Kate Fischer) and Giddy (Portia De Rossi) who are posing nude for Lindsay as he paints what will be known as the Sirens. Also on the scene is handyman Devlin (Mark Gerber). As Campion and Lindsay debate their respective positions on arts and religion amid an environment of free spirits and naked models, the straight laced Estella faces an awakening of impulses and desires that surprises her and threatens her values.

     In Greek mythology, the Sirens were beautiful women who lured sailors to their death on the rocks with their charms and song. And in Sirens, an Australian film from 1993 from director John Duigan (The Year My Voice Broke(1987)) who also wrote the film, heavy symbolism is evident: the film commences on the Titanic, a model of the Titanic features throughout the film while in one of the last scenes of the film the railway carriage Campion and his wife are travelling in has a framed picture of the Titanic on the wall. As well, snakes, symbolising the serpent in the Garden of Eden, frequently appear. So the premise is set; will the beautiful, free spirited nymphs of the Lindsay establishment successfully lure the staid English clergyman and his wife from their convictions and conservatism onto the rocks of bohemianism?

     Sirens is a slice of Australian cinema history probably best remembered for the participation of supermodel Elle Macpherson. And, indeed, her assets are on show throughout as there is a substantial amount of complete nudity, both female and male, in the film. When commenting on nudity in film, Macpherson is reported to have said that “nudity has never been an issue for me - I'm Australian. It's more of a thing in America. I mean people can buy guns, yet it's against the law to be topless on the beach” which is an interesting point. Yet Sirens is not a salacious film, so those expecting erotic thrills will be disappointed. And, despite all the magnificent naked bodies on show, it is not a particularly interesting film either.

     Part of the reason is the film attempts to raise some serious issues, such as the church’s attitude to sexuality. But, unfortunately, the delivery of the ideas is ponderous and wordy, the dialogue pompous, with brief expositions into religion, the class struggle, socialism, art and of course sex and the human body. As well, the humour is quite broad, often based on the quirkiness of “quaint locals”, or misunderstood terms such as “thunderbox”. Some of the humour does work, however, and there are good moments such as when Campion tries to enlist Rose Lindsay’s help to get the Crucified Venus withdrawn from the exhibition, only to be told by Rose that she was the model for the Venus! More grating are the number of Australian animals that just pop into frame to add local “colour”, such as a koala, possum and wallaby. The characters as written are also very one dimensional. As a result the acting from the models is as one might expect, yet even from some of the experienced actors it is stereotyped and indifferent. Only Tara Fitzgerald (who was nominated for an AFI best actress award for the role) and Portia De Rossi give some depth to their characterisations, perhaps because the script does at least give them something to do. Indeed, as Sirens is about Estelle’s journey, some of the scenes with her towards the end of the film are quite effecting, and effective.

     Sirens was filmed on location in Sofala, and at Norman Lindsay’s actual house and gardens in the Blue Mountains and looks very good, courtesy of cinematographer Geoff Burton. Sets are also excellent, the music engaging. While Sirenst is not a great film, and feels dated, it is still an interesting piece of Australian cinema history, presented on this DVD in that is probably the definitive version of the film. And of course, the beautiful bodies on show are well worth watching.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Sirens is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which is the original theatrical ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

     The print is acceptable, although it is not one to show off your system. Detail in close ups is good, although in the wider shots this is not a particularly sharp image. Colours are muted but natural, blacks and shadow detail fine. Skin tones (and there is a lot of skin on show) are natural. Brightness and contrast are consistent. Heavy grain is sometimes evident, but other than the odd white mark there are no obvious film or film to video artefacts.

     English subtitles are available.

     The layer change at 72:44 created a slight pause.

Video Ratings Summary
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Audio

     Audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 at 384 Kbps, plus the commentary track (Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kbps).

     This is a film full of dialogue without action sequences, so the 5.1 audio is basically not needed. Dialogue is centred, clear and easy to understand. The surrounds are little used, with ambient sound and music; only in one sequence with the wind are they noticeable. The sub woofer is virtually silent throughout.

     Lip synchronisation occasionally seemed slightly off, but was not distracting.

     The score by Rachel Portman was light-hearted and whimsical, and suited the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
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Surround Channel Use
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Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary with director John Duigan and producer Sue Milliken

     This commentary by director John Duigan and producer Sue Milliken was recorded about 2010. They obviously enjoyed the experience of working on Sirens and talk about the historical background, censorship, the cast and the “sledgehammer” symbolism used in the film. There are long pauses, and not a lot about the production, but it is still worth a listen.

ABC Lively Arts Interview with Norman Lindsay (53:42)

     Norman Lindsay is interviewed at his home in Springwood N.S.W. by Michael Carlton and Robert Raymond for an ABC TV program. It is in black and white, with some print and audio damage that is not distracting. The date is not given.

     Lindsay is interesting, humorous, articulate and freely expresses his opinions on subjects as diverse as art and artists, working methods, religion, the Church and spiritualism, Australian culture, The Bulletin and people he knew such as Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson. He professes to be an optimist, and has no time for writers who have a pessimistic view about life, such as James Joyce and Dostoyevsky, all as he struggles to keep his cigarette alight. This is great stuff, and his comments about the influence of the Murdoch press are very topical indeed!

Home Movie Chat with Hugh Grant and John Duigan

     In 2010 actor Hugh Grant and director John Duigan sit together and chat about Sirens and other matters. Duigan mostly poses the questions. This is an interesting and genuinely funny reminiscence that is great to watch.

Script / Press Clippings PDFs

     Load the DVD into your computer for the script and press clippings as PDF files.

Stills Gallery

     42 movie and behind the scenes stills.

Theatrical Trailer (1:46)

Umbrella Trailers

     Trailers for other films from Umbrella. Included is Picnic at Hanging Rock (4:37), Careful He Might Hear You (1:00), The Getting of Wisdom (2:28) and An Indecent Obsession (2:16).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There have been versions of the film in Region 1, and various countries in Region 2, plus a previous release in Region 4. Other than a 12 picture photo gallery on the Region 4, trailers were the only extras. This new Region 4 release is by far the best version of the film available.

Summary

    Jim Duggan’s 1993 Australian film Sirens feels a bit dated, but is still an interesting piece of Australian cinema history.

     The DVD has reasonable video and audio, but it is the great array of extras that will make this release from Umbrella the definitive version of the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, July 25, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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