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MONKEY'S MASK, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Lesbian private investigator Jill Fitzpatrick (Susie Porter) is between jobs and between partners when she gets a call to take on a missing person case. The case is a literature student called Mickey (Abbie Cornish) who frequents poetry readings and hero worships Sydney’s senior poets, to whom she also pens her own, highly emotive and sexually confronting poems. Jill interviews Mickey’s lecturer, Diana (Kelly McGillis) but finds herself instantly attracted to this sensuous, mysterious - and married - woman. Her passion gets in the way of her profession as Diana becomes a suspect, and Jill risks her own life on the way to finding the awful truth.

"When I first picked up Dorothy Porter's verse novel and started reading what appears at first glance to be random thoughts shaped in the form of unstructured poetry, I wondered with anticipation about its journey to the big screen. A lesbian private dick, her lover, the husband, a murder mystery - what a mélange. Challenging, confronting and compelling, The Monkey's Mask is an intriguing blend of genres and characters, resulting in a fascinating journey filled with surprises. The love story is gritty and unexpected: we embark on a sexual adventure that leads beyond dark, hidden doorways. Samantha Lang has met the challenge with innovation and flair, creating a moody film with plenty of edge and complexity. Susie Porter and Kelly McGillis are superb, delivering brave performances of extraordinary depth and credibility. It only seems a moment ago that we saw Porter having a bath with David Wenham in Better Than Sex. Here Wenham is replaced by McGillis, and we hardly blink an eye. We buy it all. Porter slips into the self assured black leather-clad butch role with ease and poignancy, while McGillis' seductive sly beauty is an elegant emotional cyclone. I especially like Marton Csokas as Nick, the husband who shares his secrets, while Deborah Mailman tugs at our hearts in a small cameo. In many ways, this is a story about opposites and duality; the city and the country; love and hate; tall and short, fair and dark; life and death; reality and fantasy. The script is strong and the sentiments expressed often hit a nerve, and the wry humour keeps us on our toes. It's an intoxicating mix, and while for me the lesbian sex scenes lack the passion of a film like Aimee and Jaguar, they are explicit both physically and emotionally. Original and exploding with its unique flavours, The Monkey's Mask is a powerful and entertaining trip that ventures into territories beyond the comfort zone."
Louise Keller

“Defying the rules of storytelling and cinema in equal measure by its twin-strand, genre-fusing content, told in dynamic bursts of passages that reflect its source material - a novel in verse - The Monkey’s Mask makes no compromises for the sake of commerce-informed appeasement. It is an edgy and engaging film that will not be contained in a single description, and will not be easy to digest by mainstream audiences. It has an R (18+) certificate, which may attract some people for the wrong reasons and put off others, also for the wrong reasons: like the sex. The sexual content - for which it is rated R - is entirely and importantly essential for the story, and it is filmed with a remarkably well balanced mix of sensuality and reality, without the sort of tackiness that would destroy its sincerity. Edgy in every way, from the effective cinematography to the snappy script, the film enjoys an almost uninterrupted flow of energy; only near the end does it sag momentarily. What makes The Monkey’s Mask work so well is its focus on character revelation in parallel to its story telling. Observation, writing, music and stand-out performances from the entire cast - but especially the two leads who both dispense with their images in creating their characters - make it a complex and satisfying experience. It is also notable for its use of the full ethnic range of extras, populating its mise en scene with a tangibly real, contemporary and cosmopolitan Australia. A must see for anyone interested in cinema as a language that explores human nature.”
Andrew L. Urban

”Screenwriter Anne Kennedy and director Samantha Lang's adaptation of Dorothy Porter's verse novel is a curious mix of engaging character study and clunky crime meller cliches. There's plenty of sizzle when unpolished P.I. Jill (Susie Porter) lets her libido run wild with smooth intellectual Diana (Kelly McGillis) but the murder investigation itself is far less compelling. For starters it's hard accept the idea of a sleazy underbelly in the poetry scene...yes, the poetry scene. The offbeat idea works well in Porter's novel but the hard-boiled behaviour of poets and their partners doesn't ring true here on screen. Threats left on answering machines, crucial evidence captured on amateur video and Jill's inability to piece together obvious clues (see if you can pick the killer the moment he/she appears) leave us with a fairly non-compelling mystery despite potentially juicy elements. Far more satisfying is the heat between Jill and Diana, a steamy alternate take on the time-honoured detective-falling-for-the-suspect routine. Impressively uninhibited performances and careful direction give this dangerous attraction a level of believability that sustains the film through most of its creaky plot mechanics. Also impressive is Lang's use of widescreen and her choice of both glitzy and grimy Sydney locations to enhance the contrasting pedigrees of her two protagonists. Although there isn't much suspense or mystery The Monkey's Mask does offer a clutch of intriguing characters, including Diana's slick and cynical husband Nick (Marton Csokas), bible-thumping poet McDonald (Jim Holt) and Chris Haywood who pops up as Jill's boozy dad. With a little more flair and fun with genre conventions this might have really soared. It's entertaining enough to warrant a look but never quite gets into top gear."
Richard Kuipers

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

Read Andrew L. Urban's
INTERVIEW with
Samantha Lang

TRAILER

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

MONKEY'S MASK, THE (R)
(Aus)

CAST: Susie Porter, Kelly McGillis, Marton Csokas, Deborah Mailman, Brendan Cowell, Abbie Cornish, Jim Holt, Jean-Pierre Mignon, John Noble, Linden Wilkinson, Chris Haywood, William Zappa, Bojana Novakovic

DIRECTOR: Samantha Lang

PRODUCER: Robert Connolly, John Maynard

SCRIPT: Anne Kenedy (from the book by Dorothy Porter)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Garry Philips

EDITOR: Dany Cooper

MUSIC: Single Gun Theory

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Michael Philips

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Footprint Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: AV Channel

VIDEO RELEASE: January 9, 2002







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