Friday, September 14, 2012

The Last Wave, Mona Lisa

Well, everyone, I am now once again among the employed. While it feels great, it sadly does mean I may not update as frequently, or watch nearly as many movies. But it also means that soon I will be able to afford to buy Blu Rays again, a luxury I haven't had in some time, and let me tell you, my wish list has been piling up. So keep an eye out, I'll still be around. Just maybe a little less.

The Last Wave
, by Peter Weir, 1977

In 1975, Australian director Peter Weir gained worldwide attention with his eerie, hypnotic, and primal horror film Picnic at Hanging Rock. In 1977, he followed up that success with another horror film, which, though updating its setting to the present, still maintained many of Hanging Rock's core attributes. That film is The Last Wave, and though lesser known than its predecessor, it is no slouch itself.

The Last Wave is the story of David Burton (Richard Chamberlain), a lawyer assigned to defend a group of aborigines accused of murder. Burton, normally a rational man, is drawn to the aboriginals, as he begins having apocalyptic visions involving a recent spate of extreme weather.

The movie is actually kind of hard to describe, but The Last Wave does share some thematic and tonal similarities with Picnic at Hanging Rock. Certainly the sense that nature itself is an overwhelming force, trying to push us away. It seems in these two movies that Australia itself deems people (white people, particularly) unwelcome on its land. Also like Hanging Rock, Weir offers few solid answers for the supernatural phenomena, only implications that the viewers must piece together themselves. That just makes it all the more creepy, of course.

The Last Wave is another fascinating, unique film by Peter Weir. If you've seen any of his films, from Picnic at Hanging Rock, to The Mosquito Coast, The Truman Show, or Master and Commander, you know he has a talent for fascinating, unique films. Check it out!

Mona Lisa, by Neil Jordan, 1986

Bob Hoskins is one of those actors I never realized I was going to miss until he was gone. Not dead, I mean, but recently retired due to Parkinson's Disease. Of course, to me, he was always Eddie, the gruff detective in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, but he really did have a lot of great roles. His little role in Terry Gilliam's Brazil is a favorite of mine, and I just recently watched The Long Good Friday, which he was awesome in (just watch the subtle changes of emotions on his face in that final shot).

Neil Jordan's film noir, Mona Lisa, is another high point in Hoskins' career. He earned an Oscar nomination for best actor for his performance as George, an ex-con hired as a driver for Simone, a high class call girl (Cathy Tyson). The two eventually befriend each other, and he she asks of him the favor of tracking down a friend of hers, a teenaged heroin addicted prostitute of the street walking variety, who is in too deep. He is also keeping an eye on one of Simone's clients, trying to dig up dirt on him for one of his associates (Michael Caine). George soon finds himself immersed in the seedy underworld of London, and runs afoul of all sorts of bad people.

This is a really cool movie, man. I do not believe I have seen any of Neil Jordan's films before (though I do know the ending of The Crying Game), and I am quite impressed by Mona Lisa. It's dark and grimy, and the characters are interesting, and the performances are great all around. I could have done without the montage of Hoskins checking looking for Simone's friend in all the local peep shows and sex clubs, but that was only because I had to listen to Phil Collins. And hey, it was 1986. If Phil Collins hadn't been playing on that montage, he would have been playing in someone else's really good movie. What I'm saying is, I recommend Mona Lisa, but be warned: Phil Collins.

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