Monday, June 13, 2011

Mona Lisa. B

Neil Jordan's early noir Mona Lisa is about understated performances, hidden suspense, mood, and place. In a sense it's taking noir back to its roots, recalling classics like Dassin's Night and the City. It makes London, particularly its squalid elements, as much a character as Bob Hoskins' George, a lowly driver for a high class call girl. Jordan essentially pulls London inside out, revealing it as a tragic city, just as he reveals George as a sad, pathetic man looking for anything to dignify his soul. So when his call girl asks him to find an old friend from her days in London's street prostitution, George promptly sets out to find her. His motives also are connected to his subtle respect, admiration, and maybe even love for this expensive call girl, who may be the most human prostitute in the movies besides Giulietta Masina in Fellini's 1957 Nights of Cabiria. As in the best noirs, a cunning businessman comes into play, here it being Michael Caine as George's employer. He wants George to find out the details of the wealthy man George's call girl regularly visits. There's also great support from Robbie Coltrane as George's good friend Thomas. Mona Lisa is a perfect example of noir done right because it becomes noir rather than making us see it as noir. It's a very secretive film in the way it hides its noir elements, making it a noir by keen observance rather than mere sight. The only departure from the classics is its incredibly light-hearted ending, that may be too tidy for some, but worked fine for me. It's nice to see a movie that is sad in every way close with the sense that things can turn out if you get on the right track and stay there.

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