FILM OF THE WEEK: Mona Lisa
Film4, Sunday May 11, 11.25pm
After the desperately sad news of Bob Hoskins’ death last week, Mona Lisa was the only choice for film of the week. Partly because so many reports of his passing relegated it down the billing behind more popular films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Hook. But mostly because it contains one of the finest performances of Hoskins’ career, earning him Best Actor gongs at the BAFTA Awards, Cannes and the Golden Globes, as well as a Best Actor Oscar nomination (which he lost out to Paul Newman for The Color of Money).
On paper, Mona Lisa might sound like any other indistinguishable British crime drama. Hoskins isn’t exactly playing against type as low-rent gangster George, fresh out of prison and not exactly looking to vary his career path. Assigned by his former boss (a thoroughly evil Michael Caine) as the driver for high-class call girl Simone (Cathy Tyson), an odd-couple relationship soon develops. He is short, inconspicuous and inarticulate; she is tall, glamorous and refined. Their relationship challenges George’s stunted world view and stirs his feelings beyond the plutonic.
Yet this is more than just a character study of opposite attraction. Possessing what director Neil Jordan calls “a beautiful heart”, George is drawn into Simone’s search for an underage colleague who may be in danger, and the film becomes a taught thriller. Jordan describes the seedy London milieu Mona Lisa depicts as his answer to Scorsese’s New York in Taxi Driver. Likewise, it’s no stretch to place Hoskin’s performance in the former on a par with De Niro’s in the latter.
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Film4, Saturday May 10, 12:45am
Even before Spike Lee released his English language remake of Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy at the end of last year, the critical backlash it received was entirely predictable. The quality (or not) of Lee’s film was of little consequence – Park’s twisted revenge thriller had already achieved perfection, and anything that followed was destined to pale in comparison. Beautiful, brutal and with an ending that will leave you reeling for days, be warned: Oldboy ain’t for faint-hearted.
BBC One, Sunday May 11, 12:45am
As the Paranormal Activity franchise has proven, these days the films most likely to make the biggest return on a small investment come from the horror genre. Yet in 2007, Once, a tiny Irish film made on a shoestring £94,000 budget, charmed the world into spending over 125-times that amount with its simple tale of musical connection between a heartbroken busker and an immigrant worker. The strength of its universal appeal was confirmed when the Broadway adaptation picked up eight Tony Awards in 2012 and a Grammy the following year.
The Damned United
BBC Four, Wednesday May 14, 9pm
Before he was picking up Oscars for The King’s Speech and setting box offices alight with Les Miserables, director Tom Hooper found more modest success with The Damned United. Based on David Peace’s bestselling novel about the 44-days Brian Clough spent in charge of then high-flying Leeds United, it features little football, instead focusing on the ill-fated manager’s attempt to win over a club that hated him. While that might have sports and non-sports fans groaning, consider that the actor bringing Clough to life is Michael Sheen, who – just as he did as Tony Blair and David Frost – lends tangible humanity to a figure it would have been far easier to caricature.
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