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The Monkey's Mask.

The Monkey's Mask * Written by Annie Kennedy, from the novel by Dorothy Porter * Directed by Samantha Lang * Starring Kelly McGillis, Susie Porter * Strand Releasing

Forget the plot of Monkey's Mask and just enjoy the plentiful lesbian sex scenes

Jill Fitzpatrick (Susie Porter) is a soft butch P.I. hired to solve the case of the missing student poet. Her investigation brings her into the weird, haughty, pretentious (and dangerous?) world of the Sydney poetry scene and into the arms of a significantly older married poetry professor (Kelly McGillis). I could give you a scene-by-scene analysis of The Monkey's Mask script, extol the virtues of Porter as the lesbian detective lead, or even tell you how the production design relies primarily on black, white, red, and orange hues, but I know that none of that will really matter once you react the following sentence: Kelly McGillis, a lesbian icon since gossip of a possible relationship between her and Jodie Foster off the set of the 1988 film The Accused, is finally starring in a lesbian-themed film and repeatedly gets down, dirty, and naked with another woman on-screen.

This film finally gives McGillis's lesbian fans a chance to fulfill their fantasies, but the question remains: Is that fantasy better left to the imagination? McGillis is certainly sexy in her femme noir bad-girl role, but a too-too-blond dye job has not changed her look for the better. And then there's the noticeable revision to a certain part of her anatomy that will shock anyone who has fond memories of her topless scene in Witness--a glaring augmentation that on more than one occasion actually distracts from the sex scenes at hand.

Porter and McGillis do it every which way: indoors and outdoors, standing up against refrigerators and chain-link fences, engaging in sadomasochistic sex play in a bedroom, and fooling around stark naked in a glass wall-enclosed living room encircled by views of surrounding skyscrapers. But throughout it all, there's rarely any chemistry between them. The strange attraction of the younger detective to the coldhearted academic can be chalked up more to the detective's long drought of "involuntary celibacy" than to genuine fireworks.

Still, the sexual acts are a turn-on, even if the duo doing it aren't. I love the fact that sex is such an essential element of this film, more so than the plot--which boils down to which of the bland, interchangeable suspects is responsible for the young poet's disappearance. Basically, the sex scenes are the sole things holding this whodunit together.

The only decent aspects of the script are the voice-overs, in which Jill narrates the stow like a private eye out of some dime-store pulp novel. In a particularly juicy postcoital voiceover, Jill croons about the joys of having sex again: "You forget. You get old and blunt. You forget what it's like--the taste on my mouth, the smell on my hands. The cops should pick me up. I can't walk in a straight line." I'd love to see Porter as a wised-up Jill in another film, investigating a more compelling case and finding a new femme worth her private affections.

Marcus contributes to and Frontiers.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Marcus, Lydia
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:Sep 11, 2001
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