Venice Film Festival 2021: Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon
Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, the latest film from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night director Ana Lily Amirpour, is a neon-drenched horror filled with warmth and humour, but with a frustratingly loose script
Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, the latest horror flick from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night director Ana Lily Amirpour, is just as audacious as its predecessor, albeit with less incisive bite. True to form, Amirpour takes another supernatural woman navigating murky urban lands as her (anti)heroine; here it is Mona Lisa (Burning's Jeon Jong-Seo), a girl with mind control powers who escapes the mental institution in which she has been committed since childhood. Where A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was starkly, precisely noir, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is a chaotic, neon-drenched trip of a film, winding through the seedy underbelly of New Orleans as the full moon runs its eerie course.
Amirpour excels at crafting monster films in which the strange and inhuman form the least of the horrors, yet the target of Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon’s bloody ire is never quite satisfactorily clear. Themes of control are prevalent – Mona Lisa straitjacketed in a padded cell, Mona Lisa smiling chillingly at a police officer as she demands: “Why do you think you’re in charge?” – but there is a looseness to Amirpour’s script, flicking through a cast of colourful characters and genre beats as diverse as buddy movies, pulp horror and satirical comedy, that derails the relentless move towards freedom that defines Mona Lisa’s journey.
Nevertheless, there is plenty to like here. Amirpour’s eye for the perfect shot remains unparalleled. Brief shots using fish-eye lenses and moments of hypnotic psychedelia resist horror’s bleaker tendencies, while Jeon’s spiky naivete and the unexpectedly tender presence of English rapper-turned-actor Ed Skrein (Game of Thrones, Deadpool) are a reminder that Amirpour has an eye for talent as well as aesthetic. Warmer and funnier than her previous outings, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is a welcome addition to Amirpour’s filmography, if not the one we’ve been waiting for.
Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon had its world premiere at Venice Film Festival
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