Combustible Celluloid Review - Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (2022), Ana Lily Amirpour, Ana Lily Amirpour, Kate Hudson, Jun Jong-seo, Craig Robinson, Altonio Jackson, Ed Skrein, Evan Whitten
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With: Kate Hudson, Jun Jong-seo, Craig Robinson, Altonio Jackson, Ed Skrein, Evan Whitten
Written by: Ana Lily Amirpour
Directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, sexual material and some violence
Running Time: 106
Date: 09/30/2022

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (2022)

3 Stars (out of 4)

New Orleans Snazz

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Ana Lily Amirpour's third film has in common with her first two (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and The Bad Batch) a woman alone, drifting through an unfriendly landscape. But unlike the other two, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is in a much better mood, focusing on kindness and the unlikely positive sides of human behavior. A strange young woman, called Mona Lisa Lee (Jeon Jong-seo, from Burning) escapes from an asylum. She appears to possess the power to make anyone do anything she pleases, from making a woman stab herself with nail clippers, to making a man give her some cheese puffs.

She helps exotic dancer Bonnie Belle (Kate Hudson) escape a beating from a couple of tough customers outside a diner. Bonnie brings Mona Lisa to her strip club and discovers that she can use Mona Lisa's powers to earn more tips. Bonnie lets Mona Lisa crash at her house, where she meets Bonnie's streetwise, artistic son Charlie (Evan Whitten). Mona Lisa and Charlie hit it off, and after Bonnie's small-time robberies attract the attention of police officer Harold (Craig Robinson). Mona Lisa and Charlie decide to leave, with help from a tough-looking, but sweet-as-pie drug DJ/drug dealer called Fuzz (Ed Skrein).

It's a gorgeous film, illuminated by the New Orleans nightlights, reflecting off of the shiny streets, wet with booze or who knows what else. It begins with mesmerizing shots of a swamp and includes a sequence set in an apartment that's entirely lit by blacklight. The tracking shots are smooth and make expert use of space. It's glorious, except that I wasn't sure if the movie really had much substance. Mona Lisa's powers are never explained, which is good, but then what is their purpose other than to test people on whether they're nice or exploitative? It's a nagging notion that permeates the film, but in the end, the feeling of euphoria it elicits wins the day.

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