The Monkey's Mask
Rating: * * * 1/2 Japanese title: Poetry, SexDirector: Samantha Lang Running time: 93 minutes Language: EnglishShowing at Yebisu Garden Cinema

Murder mysteries have been set in just about every locale possible, so why not the cloistered world of Australian poetry? That's what director Samantha Lang attempts in her second film, "The Monkey's Mask," and actually the contrast makes for an intriguing tension. On the one hand, you have a hard-boiled film noir, with a tough detective doggedly investigating a violent murder; on the other, there's the airy-fairy world of tenured academics and cliquey poetry readings to the accompaniment of fey flutes.

Lang bends the genre rules even further: The gruff private eye whose good sense is clouded by the wiles of a femme fatale is, in this case, a lesbian. Petite Susie Porter (soon to be seen in "Star Wars: Episode 2") gets the role that would normally be for someone like Bogart, Nicholson or Crowe, while Kelly McGillis (of "Top Gun" fame) plays the manipulating seductress.

Set in and around Sydney, "The Monkey's Mask" starts with a young goth sort of girl reading some raw and racy poetry at a small club event. The girl is Mickey Norris (Abbie Cornish), and it's the last we see of her: She disappears the following day. After two weeks, her parents suspect foul play and call in private detective Jill Fitzpatrick (Porter).