Writer-director Neil Jordan's breakthrough film is a brilliant, noir-infused love story. Bob Hoskins (who snagged an Oscar nomination for his performance) plays George, a small-time loser employed as a chauffeur to an enig... more »matic, high-class call girl. His fascination with her leads him on a dangerous quest through the sordid underbelly of London, where love is a weakness to be exploited and betrayed. Criterion is proud to present Mona Lisa in a Director Approved special edition.« less
Great movie it would be nice to have more extras though
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 02/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Mona Lisa" remains one of Neil Jordan's best movies. Bob Hoskins plays George a small time thug who took went to prison to protect his boss Mortwell (Michael Caine). To reward George for his sacrifice he gives him a job chaffeuring around Simone (Cathy Tyson)a high priced call girl that Mortwell wants to keep track of. Despite her initial chilly reception, George falls in love with her. Ultimately she asks him to make a major sacrifice so she can be free of Mortwell and his world. It's a price that leads to tragedy and violence.
A brilliant film noir, Hoskins earned an Oscar nomination for his performance and really he deserved it. His portrayal of George is complex. While he's a criminal, he's also surprisingly naive and innocent in his own way and the code of conduct he follows in his life reflects much more solid values than that of a petty crook. Michael Caine shines in a pivotal but small role as Mortwell. Caine has never given a performance as nasty and chillingly evil as he does here. Cathy Tyson ("The Serpent and the Rainbow", "Priest") also deserves kudos for her performance as Simone. Although the surface of her character is chilly she hints at the depths of emotion raging beneath the surface of this sophisticated and sad woman.
The Criterion edition of this looks exceptionally good with nice color reproduction and a crisp, sharp picture. It appears that the same master that was used for the 1996 laserdisc was used here, though, and it probably should have been remastered from a new digital transfer. While presented in its original format this isn't an anamorphic transfer that I can tell which is, again, another reason to update this and create a high definition DVD.
Neil Jordan and Bob Hoskins commentary track provide a surprising amount of interesting detail about the making of the movie. Usually commentary tracks with an actor and director devolves into a lovefest with little actually uncovered but that's not the case here. We learn about the difficulty that Jordan had initially interesting backers in the project and how pivotal the casting of Michael Caine was to making this project viable.
I still would have liked to have more in the way of extras for this classic film. Like the recent re-release of "The Crying Game", there has to be some alternate scenes that survived or outtakes that might have been of interest to fans. Additionally, why not do a retrospective documentary or a glimpse back at Jordan's career as a featurette? Hopefully Criterion (or whomever picks up the license on this film for DVD release in the US) will remaster this and add the extras that this classic film calls for."
Grittily romantic, heartbreakingly realistic
David J. Loftus | Portland, OR USA | 01/24/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fresh out of jail and trying to reconnect with his daughter, Hoskins is a working stiff/street thug who gets a job from crime boss Michael Caine chauffering a "high-class black tart" played by Cathy Tyson. The Hoskins character is remarkably naive, falls in love with the prostitute and tries to protect her, and disaster ensues.There's an unforgettable moment, when they're both in tears, hiding behind silly plastic eyeglasses in a garish carnival setting, and, trying to explain her odd situation that he's just beginning to understand, she says, "Haven't you ever needed someone?" and he squeezes out the reply: "All the time."It's a remarkably tender story in a chokingly ugly environment. Caine is gruesomely sleazy.I remember seeing this when it first came out, about the time of "Blue Velvet" and "Brazil"; what an amazing era that was! All three movies even had ironically sweet or upbeat theme songs from a few decades before.Director Neil Jordan later moved on to the weirder pastures of "The Crying Game," and then the glossy jobs "Interview with the Vampire" and now "The End of the Affair," but I still consider this his best -- not to mention Bob Hoskins's most incredible acting work."
My favorite movie
Doug Best | near Rochester, NY | 03/17/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I believe Neil Jordan put together a work of perfection here. I deeply cared for the two main characters (played brilliantly by Hoskins and Tyson). The portrayal of the pain of isolation and the hopelessness of not being able to connect with their desires touched me at a level only great works can do. All the details of a film are done with perfection.(Don't forget the fine little performance of Robbie Coltrane who later became the main charater in "Cracker".) But given the individual stengths of the fascinating plot, the extraordinary performances and the effective filming and music, it is the whole, the gestalt of this work, that reaches the highest level of art."
LONDON, SOHO, GEORGE AND SIMONE
wdanthemanw | Geneva, Switzerland | 06/08/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Firstly I would say that if you have in your library John Mackenzie's THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, also available in the Criterion collection, and Neil Jordan's MONA LISA, you already have a good specimen of what the British cinema was able to offer in the eighties. A fabulous actor, Bob Hoskins, is present in both movies; he won the best actor prize at the 1986 Cannes Festival for MONA LISA. Neil Jordan began his career as a writer and is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting film directors nowadays. It's always challenging for the common viewer to watch a movie directed by a former writer. One often wonders why the director has left his books for the cinema. Some of these ex-writers use the camera as if they were handling a pen and the result is dreadful. Or too intellectual. Fortunately, with MONA LISA, Neil Jordan has created a stunning visual world and George and Simone's night wanderings through the London underworld an unforgettable cinematographic journey.MONA LISA develops a lot of themes that will touch you in a way or in another. The different levels of the movie are so well mingled in the story that you will be able to watch MONA LISA several times and still discover little pearls hidden by the brilliant director. At the end of the movie, I just wanted to check the sound quality of the commentary track recorded in 1996 by Neil Jordan and Bob Hoskins and I found myself trapped into MONA LISA for an immediate second screening.Apart from the commentary, this Criterion DVD offers the theatrical trailer and a one page written Neil Jordan commentary.A DVD for your library."
Dreams Just Lie There, and They Die There
Vince Perrin | Stockton, CA USA | 06/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's a stretch to link the lyrics of Nat King Cole's recording with this movie and its title. Almost any ballad would have served. But it's no stretch at all to see why "Mona Lisa" became a sleeper hit, launched the career of writer-director Neil Jordan, and won Bob Hoskins an Oscar nomination. He plays an ill-tempered ex-con hired to chauffeur a call girl (Cathy Tyson) around to clients. That he will fall for her is a given; so are the tricks that screenwriter Jordan will play on them.
Hoskins and Tyson tool around London, tend to business, and bond. He is open and inquisitive, she is closed and secretive. What binds them is survival. Rarely has urban low-life been filmed as matter-of-factly as here. Sex for sale is the street currency and those who earn it are injured in ways unseen on their faces. The camera visits sordid sites never listed on tourist maps. Nevertheless, Jordan finds tenderness there, unlikely as it may be, just as John Huston found it aboard "The African Queen."
The movie takes a minute to pull you in and, unfortunately, more than that to keep you there, so difficult are the cockney accents. This DVD lists English subtitles on the case which are nowhere to be found on the menu; nor are any of the easy-to-obtain extras we expect from The Criterion Collection, although there is a Jordan-Hoskins commentary. But "Mona Lisa" is so strongly written, acted and directed that it doesn't need any enhancements to engage us while we are watching it.