Tag Archives: Clarke Peters

Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa

Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa is a stunning film, an enigmatic jewel that doesn’t reveal any of its secrets or intent after the first five minutes, half hour or even mid point but rather let’s the passage of time, the sense of place, the richness of character and mesmeric atmosphere draw the viewer in. Bob Hoskins is George in another one of his ferocious bulldog performances, but this time around there’s a roughly sculpted emotional climate he’s cultivating too. George is an ex con who has drifted off his path in life, and after being released from prison has no idea where to turn. An old mob contact sets him up as driver and protector to high class call girl Simone (Cathy Tyson) and the two of them get on thunderously at first, until he gradually falls madly in love. She is a cipher, and Tyson plays her with a counterintuitive, flint-spark resilience. What’s she looking for as she scans the inky black London streets with an uncommonly focused gaze? I won’t spoil the surprise, but this narrative unfolds organically, at its own pace and with a deep feel for London as both a city and a primordial habitat. Michael Caine is deliciously vile as the horrid porn kingpin Mortwell, a selfish sociopath whose path George and Simone must cross on their own. You can’t quite pin this one down in any one genre and therein lies the magic that is a Jordan film. His work is always illusory yet somehow so specific but never tethered to any one thing you could describe in a few sentences. He makes films less from a genre perspective and more from a life perspective. There’s romance here to be sure, but not in the way one might think and the film’s violent conclusion set in seaside Brighton might leave you just as confused and heartbroken as some of its characters. There’s droll comedy too in episodic interactions between George and his chum Thomas, played by the great Robbie Coltrane in the kind of jovially cherubic turn that only he can pull off. There’s danger, loneliness, joy, monsters, corruption, redemption, love, hurt and more, all gilded by achingly beautiful cinematography drenched in West End neon, a Michael Kamen score that hits every note from jazz to a horror theme style jangle, of all things. I don’t know what else to say except experience this slice of life on celluloid for yourself, because it’s something truly special and not to really be put into words. Magnificent film.

-Nate Hill