A breakthrough hit for director Neil Jordan, the neo-noir classic Mona Lisa has been given a new lease on life thanks to Arrow Video’s remastered Blu-ray release. Mona Lisa stars Bob Hoskins as George, a man just released from prison into a world that has moved on without him. Turning to his old boss Mortwell (Michael Caine, once again sliding comfortably into the role of sleazy crime boss), George is able to find work as chauffeur for high-class escort Simone, a woman as beautiful and inscrutable as the titular painting.
Simone’s life seems to be split between two different halves, on one hand is her extravagant lifestyle of exotic liaisons in expensive hotels, a world in which the staunchly working class George sticks out like a sore thumb. However on the other hand is the seedy underworld of the sex trade which she is desperately trying to distance herself from, a world that George understands far better and despite his repulsion, one that he must immerse himself into as he searches for Simone’s friend Cathy (Kate Hardie). This world is exemplified by May (Sammi Davis), an underage girl who works at one of the strip clubs. May’s scenes are some of the most brutal in the entire film, as she tries to convince George to sleep with her with childlike earnestness. A scene that only becomes more uncomfortable as she breaks down into desperate pleas to avoid another beating from her pimp.
Initially the two sides of Simone’s life seem like completely separate worlds, an illusion aided by some excellent camerawork; the bright wide shots of hotel lobbies contrasting sharply with the dark claustrophobic staircases of strip clubs. But as George’s life becomes more and more entwined with Simone’s he finds these two worlds are coming closer together, leading to a ferocious and tragic climax in which his worlds collide.
Bob Hoskins received his first and only nomination for this performance, a nomination that was certainly well deserved. George is a product of his upbringing, a rough man filled with anger and deep-seated prejudice against others; he is a character that would be wholly unlikable portrayed by a lesser actor, but Hoskins brings a level of kindness and vulnerability that shines through the layers of roughness. This is matched by an understated performance by Cathy Tyson as Simone, one well suited to such an enigmatic character. What really raises up both performances though is the interaction between the two leads, they have a fantastic chemistry as the two swap barbs and play off each other. It is this relationship that the entire film is based upon, initially providing some of the films more comedic moments (the highlight being a subplot in the vein of Pygmalion as Simone tries to upgrade George’s wardrobe with spectacular results), but soon deepens into something much more complex. As George’s feelings for Simone deepen, it becomes less and less clear whether or not she reciprocates these feelings or is just using George as a means to an end.
As with Arrow’s other releases, the Blu-Ray comes with a selection of special features including brand new interviews with Neil Jordan, writer David Leland and producer Stephen Woolley and a commentary track by Neil Jordan and Bob Hoskins. However, the real draw of this edition is the restoration work done on the original film. The remastered visuals and audio have had a stunning effect, perhaps best illustrated in the film’s opening scene, as George walks across a bridge with the London skyline in the background, the twilight sky a vibrant shade of purple and the crisp sound of Nat King Cole’s Mona Lisa playing in the background. Mona Lisa is a heart-breakingly tragic film that leaves an impression long after the credits have stopped rolling thanks to its fantastically relatable characters. And now Arrow’s incredible work remastering the film means that there has never been a better time to see it.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
- Brand new restoration sourced from the original camera negative, approved by director Neil Jordan and cinematographer Roger Pratt
- High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
- Original uncompressed PCM mono 1.0 sound
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary by Bob Hoskins and Neil Jordan
- Brand new interviews with director Neil Jordan, writer David Leland and producer Stephen Woolley
- Original Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin