H231 AUSTRALIAN CINEMA

ASSIGNMENT TWO
PART 1

JO TOYNE


The Monkey's Mask

Director: Samantha Lang
Scriptwriter: Anne Kennedy
Cinematographer: Garry Philips
Producers: Robert Connolly, John Maynard
Production Company: Arena Film

Lead Actors: Susie Porter plays Jill Fitzpatrick
Kelly McGillis plays Diana
Marton Csokas plays Nick
Deborah Mailman plays Lou
Abbie Cornish plays Mickey

Release Dates for Australia: Theatrical release: 10 May 2001
Video release: 9 January, 2002
DVD release: 15 March 2001

Released in the US: 27 July 2001
Box Office Figures
Total US gross: $49, 007

I was unable to find information on the Australian box office figures.



Bibliographical details of interviews with filmmakers
I was only able to find two interviews with director Samantha Lang about 'The Monkey's Mask'. I was unable to find any information on interviews with scriptwriter Anne Kennedy or the producers- Robert Connolly and John Maynard.

David Stratton's interview with filmmaker (director) Samantha Lang on The Movie Show Website about her film 'The Monkey's Mask':
http://www.sbs.com.au/movieshow/interviews.php3?id=44

Andrew L. Urban's interview with filmmaker (director) Samantha Lang on the Urban Cinefile Website about her film 'The Monkey's Mask':
http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=4813&s=Interviews

Bibliographical details of reviews in newspapers, critical essays in journals, discussions in books
I was unable to find any hard-copied information on 'The Monkey's Mask' at the Murdoch University Library. I also tried to do a number of searches on the internet for information on The Monkey's Mask with articles/reviews in newspapers, critical essays in journals and discussions but I was unable to find anything. I think this was to do with the fact that it was not a very popular film or a very successful film compared to other Australian films or US blockbusters. It would be possible to find these things, but time stopped me from finding them.

Details of the film's on-line presence in the web literature.
There was plenty of coverage on The Monkey's Mask on-line. I did searches through a number of different search engines and it came up with a large list of different websites. On most of them I typed in 'The Monkey's Mask' or 'Samantha Lang' as well as 'Anne Kennedy' and some other names that I was unable to get any results from. On the websites that I did find, these contained things such as principal cast and credits, reviews and synopsises. Here's a list of websites that I found with some coverage on Samantha Lang's 'The Monkey's Mask':
Official Website
http://www.monkeysmaskmovie.com/
Rotten Tomatoes
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/TheMonkeysMask-1109846/reviews.php
Haro Online
http://www.haro-online.com/movies/monkeys_mask.html
AMG All-movie Guide
http://www.allmovie.com/cg/avg.dll
The Internet Movie Database
http://us.imdb.com/Title?0259442
Urban Cinefile Website
http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?Article_ID=3815
Hollywood.com
http://www.hollywood.com/movies/detail/movie/185303
Upcomingmovies.com
http://www.upcomingmovies.com/monkeysmask.html

Detail of how I went about collecting information for my search
To collect my information I used the internet. This film was only released in 2001 and this made it very difficult for me to find any information in film texts and books. Searching for Samantha Lang's 'The Monkey's Mask' on the internet was not a difficult task at all. I used a number of search engines such as http://www.google.com, http://www.yahoo.com.au, http://www.looksmartsearch.com. All of which were very good in covering the many websites on The Monkey's Mask. I found google.com to be particularly helpful as it seemed like there were a lot more websites in this search engine. I also found a number of websites on the Murdoch Library Website.

CRITICAL REVIEW PART 2
SYNOPSIS

'The Monkey's Mask,' by director Samantha Lang is the story taken from Dorothy Porter's verse novel, which is also called, 'The Monkey's Mask'. It is an Australian film noir.

Jill Fitzpatrick (Susie Porter), a lesbian private investigator, is drawn to the city, away from her mountainous country home to investigate the disappearance of Mickey Norris (Abbie Cornish), a young poet who has recently gone missing.

During her investigation, Jill manages to track down Diana (Kelly McGillis), Mickey's poetry lecturer. Jill finds herself attracted to Diana and although Jill is positive that Diana is hiding the truth from her it doesn't seem to stop her from having an affair with this academic femme fatale.

Diana is married to Nick (Marton Csokas) and he doesn't seem at all bothered by his wife's affair with Jill. After investigating a number of senior poets with whom Mickey was sexually involved with, Jill is still far from the truth. She is blinded by her powerful passion for Diana and she is compromised in her search for the truth, until her own life becomes endangered.

Jill decides to question Nick, Diana's husband, and it is only then when the truth finally comes out.

I feel this film tells the usual investigation story from an interesting and different perspective. This film is quite different to that of the usual private investigation story, unlike a common detective story, the women tend to have more power than the men. This film managed to keep me engrossed throughout the entire film. It is a rather clichˇd film with the usual story of a former cop turned private investigator, and has a clichˇd storyline but it still has enough in it to keep the viewer switched on and engrossed. I wouldn't say it's the best film I've seen but then I wouldn't say it was the worst I've seen either. I think, although predictable at the best of times, it was still a quite enjoyable film.


CRITICAL UPTAKE

This is a film may have caused a bit of controversy when it was first released due to the very visual sex scenes between Jill and Diana, which are shown on more than one occasion. Most critics of this film said that the female sex scenes were unnecessary in telling the story.

One reviewer said, 'The nudity is in the context of a lesbian affair that's about as convincing as a Playboy photo shoot.'

One critic said that the best part of the film was the camera shots.
'Speaking of cameras, Garry Phillips's cinematography is the one bright spot of the movie. Using a blend of extreme close-ups set off center and stunning widescreen shots, he creates a look that's much better than the material deserves,' he said.

I think it wouldn't too be far from the truth for me to say that all of the reviews I read about this film on the internet didn't really compliment this film.

Susie Porter was said by one critic to be a sex symbol.
'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,' she said.

The reviews that have been made from the time it was released until present date have not really changed at all, they mostly talk about it being clichˇd, containing too many unnecessary female sex scenes and not having much suspense in it for a detective story.

THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF PRODUCTION AND RELEASE AND ITS BOX-OFFICE

The circumstance of the production of 'The Monkey's Mask' is that this film was based on Dorothy Porter's novel that is in verse. I believe this may have been a very hard task for Scriptwriter Anne Kennedy to write it into a film. Maybe that is why this film was not as successful as it could have been. The film seems rather cluttered with different subplots, such as when different titles are placed upon the screen. These headings are chapter titles that are in Dorothy Porter's novel. These headings are not really necessary in the film as they don't really take us anywhere or make much of a point.

This film was not at all a blockbuster but it made a US $49, 007 whereas Samantha Lang's previous release of 'The Well' only made a mere US $9, 043. This is a big difference between her two films.
PRIOR WORK

In 1997 Samantha Lang released 'The Well' which was selected for a competition at Cannes. This film also received 11 AFI (Australian Film Industry) nominations.
Samantha Lang starts shooting L'Idol in Paris, France in July. 'The Monkey's Mask' made a higher US gross amount but 'The Well' shows to be a bit more successful in Australia than 'The Monkey's Mask' as it received nominations for AFI awards.

Cinematographer, Garry Philips' prior work was 'Better Than Sex' in 2000, which made a US gross of $94, 940. This, by the amount of money it made, shows it to be a much more successful film in the US than 'The Monkey's Mask'.

Susie Porter won an FCCA award for Best Supporting Actress in 19 for her role in 'Two Hands' in 1999. She also appeared in 'Paradise Road' and 'Welcome to Woop Woop'. She played lead roles in 'Feeling Sexy' and 'Better Than Sex'. She also appears in 'Bootmen' and her TV experience includes 'Wildside', 'Water Rats' and 'Aftershocks'. She is also going to star in the next Star Wars film 'Attack of the Clones'.

Kelly McGillis previously starred in 'Top Gun' in 1989 which won the 1986 Best Original Song - Tom Whitlock, Giorgio Moroder presented by: Academy Awards, 1986 Nominated Best Film Editing - Billy Weber presented by: Academy Awards, 1986 Nominated Best Sound presented by: Academy Awards and 1986 Nominated Best Sound Effects Editing presented by: Academy Awards. These awards prove that 'The Monkey's Mask' was nowhere near as successful as this other film that Kelly McGillis starred in.

One of the producers of 'The Monkey's Mask', Robert Connolly is also a film director of the 2001 film, 'The Bank'. He won an AFI award for his achievement.

John Maynard, another producer of 'The Monkey's Mask', has been a producer for 20 years. He co-produced Jane Campion's 'An Angel at my Table', which was the winner of a 'Silver Lion' at the 1990 Venice Film Festival. In 1994 he produced 'All Men Are Liars', in 1997 'The Boys' and in 2001, 'The Bank' which received AFI awards.

THIS FILM IN RELATION TO AUSTRALIAN CINEMA

The movie 'The Monkey's Mask', although not one of the best, is an important film to Australia. It raises the points and ideas that women are now taking on roles in Australian films that were once only filled by males. It stands out in a significant way compared to that of other Australian films. 'The Monkey's Mask' could arguably be said to be a feminist film. This film operates along the front that it, as said by Tom O'Regan,

'..brings into being a woman's cinema: a cinema operating in and creating its own alternative cultural space, such as that attempted by the Sydney Women's Film Group from 1971, Reel Women in Melbourne from the mid01970s to early 1980s, and Cinematrix in Perth in the 1980s and Beyond.' (O'Regan, 1996).

This means that 'The Monkey's Mask' which was written by a female, directed by a female and the lead roles that were played by females, allows women to achieve and maintain some political and bureaucratic power. This may be done by many box-office US movies but it is not such a common thing in Australia and this is why it is such an important thing in making us see the general position of Australian film and its values.

AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL CINEMA AS A MEDIUM SIZED ENGLISH LANGUAGE CINEMA

In English speaking countries, film industries only really cater for English Language films. These countries such as Australia, United Kingdom, United States, Canada and any other primary English speaking countries are only a small part of the world, this enabling them to only be able to compete with the big budget Hollywood films. This means that their films must be appealing to the American film industry and audience, as that is where a lot of the money is for English Language Cinema. It must also be something that is quite different at the same time so it enables them to compete with the US market. It should be 'antipodal', enabling a negotiate path between Australian and US filmmaking.

'The Monkey's Mask' by Samantha Lang is clearly an Australian film and is evident through the landscapes that are represented throughout the film. The actual narrative could enable it to be a Hollywood film, but if this film was a Hollywood film I doubt it would be any more successful than it was with being Australian. This film shows Australia's landscapes and by lead roles in this film being lesbians, it gives a different perspective to Australian films.