Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 16th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1986
Director: Neil Jordan
Writers: Neil Jordan, David Leland
Cast: Bob Hoskins, Cathy Tyson, Michael Caine, Robbie Coltrane, Clarke Peters, Kate Hardie, Zoë Nathenson, Sammi Davis
BluRay released: July 6th, 2015
Approximate running times: 103 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B (UK)
Retail Price: £15.99 (UK)
Synopsis: Recently released from prison George collects a favor from an old friend who gets him a job as a call girl’s driver. What starts off as a routine job, quickly take a turn for the worse when George agrees to help the call girl he has been driving around find her missing friend. Will he find her missing friend or will they find themselves in over their heads in a seedy underworld where life if disposable?
Mona Lisa was co-written and directed by Neil Jordan whose other notable films include, The Company of Wolves and The Crying Game. Key collaborators on Mona Lisa include screenwriter David Leland (Made in Britain, Wish You Were Here), cinematographer Roger Pratt (The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys) and composer Michael Kamen (Brazil, Highlander).
If ever there was a film were its title perfectly summarizes what the film is all about, then Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa would be such a candidate. And just like Leonardo da Vinci’s painting which bears a smile that has fascinated everyone who has laid their eyes upon it, perception plays an integral role in the story that unfolds in Neil Jordan’s film.
Though this film begins as a story about a protagonist who is unable to break old habits as he immediately returns to the life which contributed to him going to prison in the first place. By the time it’s shocking ending rolls around it has transformed itself into something on the opposite end of the spectrum as the protagonist comes to the realization that he is going to fall into the same trappings as long as he lets others take advantage of him.
Content wise, there are many elements in this film that are widely associated with film’s about underworld crime. And yet, when it comes to these elements there main purpose in this film amounts to mere window dressing for what this film is ultimately trying to convey. With that being said, the end result is something closer to a drama then a thriller.
From a production stand point there is not a single area where this film does not excel. Pacing is never an issue and the visuals are rock solid. And though there are many standout moments visually in this film. It is safe to say that none are more jarring then this film’s explosive finale.
The cast are very good in their respective roles. With three performances in particular standing out above everyone else and equally deserving of recognition. Bob Hoskins (The Long Good Friday) in the role of this film’s protagonist George, Cathy Tyson (The Serpent and the Rainbow) in the role of Simone, a high price call girl that George has been given the job of driving her around to her various clients. Later on in the film her character convinces George to help her find her missing friend who is also a call girl and underage. Last but certainly not the least of these three performances is Michael Caine (Dressed to Kill) in the role of a sleazy crime boss named Mortwell. Overall Mona Lisa is a riveting melodrama that quickly pulls you into its web of deceit.
Mona Lisa comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. For this release a brand new restoration created that was sourced from the original camera negative and approved by director Neil Jordan and cinematographer Roger Pratt. And the end result is a transfer that greatly improves upon all previous home video releases for this film. Areas of marked improvement include contrast and black levels as well as shadow detail and image clarity. Also there are no issues with DNR or compression and there is a healthy layer of grain throughout.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English and removable English SDH subtitles have also been included. The audio sounds clean, clear, balanced and robust when it needs too, especially this film’s score.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 32 seconds), three interviews – the first interview is with co-screenwriter / director Neil Jordan (19 minutes 58 seconds), the second is interview with producer Stephen Woolley (13 minutes 37 seconds) and the third interview is with co-screenwriter David Leland (19 minutes 2 seconds) and an audio commentary with Neil Jordan and actor Bob Hoskins.
Topics discussed in the interview with Neil Jordan include, collaborating with screenwriter David Leland on the Mona Lisa screenplay, the cast and his thoughts on their performances, locations that were used for this film, the score / soundtrack, looking back, what he likes and dislikes about the final product.
Topics discussed in the interview with Stephen Woolley include, collaborating with Neil Jordan, the look of the film, real life events that occurred at various locations featured in the film and his thoughts about the film.
Topics discussed in the interview with David Leland include, how he became involved in writing Mona Lisa was due to Neil Jordan being a fan of other film projects that he had written screenplays for, collaborating with Jordan and the lengthy screenwriting process, the differences between his original draft and the final draft of the screenplay, his thoughts on the cast and their performances and he reveals his favorite moments in the film.
Neil Jordan – Nat King Cole’s song Mona Lisa and its use in this film, he also discusses in depth this film’s protagonist and other key characters that appear in the film, the cast, the look of the film and what he was trying to achieve visually, how the protagonist role was tailor made for Hoskins and key sequences are discussed in depth.
Bob Hoskins – his thoughts on the character he portrays, the cast, how he did very little research for his role because he wanted to strengthen his characters naivete, working with Neil Jordan and how he gave his actors freedom to create.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and a twelve page booklet with cast & crew info, an essay about the film written by Mike Sutton and information about the transfer. Overall Mona Lisa gets an exceptional release from Arrow Video.