Active Ingredients: Strong performances; Subdued direction; Location shooting
Side Effects: Pacing; Shallow script; 2nd act derailment
Despite a string of beautiful Technicolor masterpieces in the 1940s, director Michael Powell saw his career all but collapse after the release of 1960’s Peeping Tom, which critics deemed “vile”. Fortunately, however, he made one more feature: Age of Consent. With only a few characters and locations, the film has an intimate feel, unlike Powell’s earlier epics like The Red Shoes and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (two of my favorite films). The small scale is well-suited to the story of a painter in need of a muse and a young girl in need of a sexual awakening.
The performances by James Mason and Helen Mirren are great, and Powell wisely let’s his actors do much of the work, calmly observing their faces rather than obtruding with his camera. While Powell still shines, his material disappoints him. The central relationship lacks real depth, and the story often loses focus. A mid-film interlude involving the painter’s friend is particularly distracting. Age of Consent can’t live up to the grace of The Red Shoes, but for fans of Powell’s or Mirren’s, it’s worth a look.