The Monkey’s Mask
Lesbian Aussie noir. Private Detective Jill Fitzpatrick (Porter) endangers her case when she falls for prime suspect Diana (McGillis).
dir Samantha Lang
scr Anne Kennedy
with Susie Porter, Kelly McGillis, Marton Csokas, John Noble, Linden Wilkinson, Abbie Cornish, Jim Holt, Caroline Gillmer, Jean-Pierre Mignon, William Zappa, Chris Haywood, Bojanna Novakovic
release UK 30.Mar.01
StudioCanal 00/Australia 1h33
3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
London L&G Film Fest Based on Dorothy Porter's novel in poetry, The Monkey's Mask plays like a Sam Spade detective mystery with some serious twists. First, it's set in sunny Sydney. Second, the protagonist is a lesbian private detective. Jill (Porter) is helping a couple (Noble and Wilkinson) find their missing daughter Mickey (Cornish), a poetry student. Starting at the university, Jill soon falls for Mickey's teacher Diana (McGillis). The two begin a steamy affair, with the apparent approval of Diana's young husband Nick (Csokas). And when Mickey turns up dead, Jill is kept on by the parents to find out whodunit. But will her new relationship cloud things? Silly question.

Despite very slow pacing, the film is intriguing enough to keep us interested as Jill gets more and more confused about what's really going on. The story is full of mysterious characters, all of whom seem wholly innocent but are hiding grisly secrets. In fine film noir style, virtually everyone is vaguely capable of murder, from older, established poets (Holt and Mignon) to the shifty police inspector (Zappa). Porter (Bootmen, Two Hands) and McGillis (a long way from Top Gun and Witness!) hold our attention perfectly with complex performances and a creepy relationship that defies description. And in the end, maybe it's the creep factor that will keep this on the art film circuit--the world the film explores, of underground poetry and sexual obsession, is so tawdry and implicitly violent that it's hard to really identify with anyone. Mickey's poetry is so blunt and cruel--about women as victims--that it makes us squirm. But it also makes us think.
strong adult themes and situations, language, violence, nudity cert 18 27.Mar.01

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"Superb, realistic, I was so tired when I started watching this film, but soon was caught up in the story." --Pat, Seattle 15.Jun.02
© 2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall