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Monkey's Mask, The
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by Dust For Eyes

"No monkeys involved, thank goodness."
4 stars

Susie Porter is again mixed up with sex in this Australian noir mystery. Australians have shown that they're pretty good at noir. This one will satisfy noir fans with either the noir styling or the sex. Me, I can go with either.

Australia's had a recent spate of film noir and they've been pretty good. The most popular one being Two Hands, and there's also been Risk which had been released around the same time as The Monkey's Mask.

I'm a fan of the film noir genre from whatever country it comes from. There's the black comedy, the smart lines, and the smarter women. Then there's the most important feature being a crisis of morals for our hero. Getting stuck in with the hero and not knowing what the hell to do about the biggie problem that he suddenly finds himself in.

Despite liking it, I can see that film noir might be seen as a cliché-laden form. It can also head towards misogyny with the femme fatales nearly always being trouble for the male hero - Trouble wrapped up in high heels and a short skirt. It can be a bit sleepy inducing and so needs some new angles.

So what better way to fix up these two problems than with a female hero.

Jill (Porter) is a lesbian private detective - A private dyke if you like. As with all private detectives in film noir she's seen it all and didn't like it. She lives in The Blue Mountains just outside of Sydney and does her best to avoid the place if she can at'all manage it.

Jill gets called up to investigate the disappearance of a young student. She's all artsy victim attitude student - the worst kind - why would anyone care if one of these went missing? She's also into poetry and this leads Jill to Diana (McKillis), a lecturer of the missing student.

Despite swapping the sex of the private detective, everything else is in its noir place: lots of smoking, a femme fatale, sex, and a crisis of morals. There's even a voice over, but that's a little different.

With the movie based on Dorothy Porter's novel of verse, the voice over is in verse. Indeed whole slabs of dialogue are in verse. It's not quite up there with Dr. Seuss with the rhyming game unfortunately, but it is pretty neat with everybody speaking in a nice rhythm.

The film is a cool blend of glossiness and plain reality. At one point things are just too sexy and then in the next things just seem from the planet ordinary. It's rather neat actually and it's credit to Samantha Lang's direction and Porter's performance.

Again it's Porter and lots of sex. Sex sex sex! Porter used to be the sideshow comic relief like in Two Hands or Amy. Now, with Better Than Sex, Feeling Sexy and this film, she seems to have become The Complete Sex Symbol.

The Monkey's Mask is not to the standard of The Wachowski Brothers' stylish Bound, which goes over similar territory. In this film the feel is low key with a little less pouting.

Lang had an attempt at noir when she directed one of the Twisted Tales episodes - a not-entirely-successful big name series that included Bryan Brown, Geoffery Rush and directors David Ceaser (Idiot Box) and Gregor Jordan (Two Hands). Here, she handles confidently a story that retains the stylings and grace of the verse novel.

The film will satisfy the noir fans, the Porter fans, fans of the novel and fans of hot lesbian action - not that I am, mind. I hadn't read the novel.

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originally posted: 05/20/01 15:04:30
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User Comments

5/19/05 ABomb Tedious film school wank, as usual from Samantha Lang. 1 stars
1/14/05 Gullytrap Please stay in France Samantha Lang. 1 stars
10/09/02 spyguy2 A sexy movie with an ending you'll see from a mile away but I enjoyed the ride. 4 stars
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  27-Jul-2001 (R)


  10-May-2001 (R)

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