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In the history (sorry herstory) of lesbian films, The Monkey’s Mask is going to stand as a landmark like The Killing Of Sister George, The Children ’5 Hour and more recently Bound.
It’s the first film in which a major Hollywood player, the sensational Kelly McGillis, bares her body and soul as a lesbian character. Why is it such a big deal? Why are we so obsessed that the actress might possibly be making a statement by playing gay? Perhaps because, in the whole history of movies, there are no ‘out’ Hollywood actresses.
Why should this be? Is it because so many female characters are written in terms of how attractive they are in relation to men? And if you are watching atop Hollywood star playing straight, but she‘s informed the world she‘s lesbian, could it be that the audience can't get round the dilemma? Anne Heche‘s career is a case in point. She was prolific and popular as a young straight actress, ridiculed and chastised as a young gay actress. No wonder she has gone back to being straight.
McGillis first made lesbians fall in love with her when she let water dribble down her breasts in the Amish-set Witness. She became a dyke icon in Top Gun as a navy pilot; so butch on a motorbike, so feminine when she tossed her hair from that helmet. And then tongues wagged in her coupling with Jodie Foster in The Accused. But that was thirteen years ago.
Now she‘s playing a dyke poetry professor in the steamy, Australian set The Monkey’s Mask. She has had a field day publicising the movie. Catcalls, screams and cheers greeted her entrance at the opening of London‘s Lesbian And Gay Film Festival; and that was from a mainly female audience. Asked about being branded lesbian she proclaimed: ‘I knew that making this film would start all that up again. And that doesn’t bother me. Next week I’m coming out as an Amish. The week after that as a navy pilot.’
Her performance is as groundbreaking as Audrey Hepburn‘s in Lillian Hellman’s subtle lesbian drama, The Children ’5 Hour from 1961. Can you imagine what it must have been like to be lesbian then, and to slip into
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Kelly McGillis is relaxed about being a gay icon
a darkened auditorium and see one of Hollywood‘s incredible beauties playing lesbian so sensitively? There‘s a scene of enormous dignity at the end when Hepburn cannot stand the small-town bigotry any longer. After closeting herself away in a disused school she comes out by walking in the garden. Looking directly to camera, Hepburn smiles beautifully and without words, tells the audience to accept themselves. Kelly McGillis’ sexually provocative, completely unabashed performance does likewise in The Monkey’s . (John Binnie)
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