MONA LISA AND THE BLOOD MOON – Review by Jennifer Merin

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Ana Lily Amirpour’s thrilling feature film, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, is set in trippy New Orleans. The film’s opening sequence sees a young woman — the titular Mona Lisa Lee (Jeon Jong-seo) — using her extraordinary power of psychokinesis to escape from the padded cell where she’s been warehoused since her early childhood.

Once she gotten passed the bars that have caged her, Mona Lisa runs away to seek a better life elsewhere. She knows almost nothing about the outside world but she knows enough to quickly shed her straight jacket and don some groovy street shreds. Looking almost ordinary, she blends in with New Orleans weirdos and her innate sense of survival and extrasensory skills help her to negotiate her way out of one bad situation after another — including a hook up with a tough street smart stripper (Kate Hudson) who exploits Mona Lisa’s powers of control to move men to empty their savings accounts via commercial cash machines.

The stripper has a young son (Evan Whitten) who befriends Mona Lisa for real, and she finds her first romance with Fuzz (Ed Skrein), a random DJ who is quite fascinated by her and is willing to become her champion. You’ll be fascinated by her too.

The film requires your suspension of disbelief. Go along for the ride and be thoroughly entertained by Mona Lisa’s story which delivers all the tantalizing empathy-laced twists, quirks and oddities we’ve come to expect from Ana Lily Amirpour, and for which we adore her work.

Stunning cinematography, sound design, costumes and set decor conspire to make Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon another singularly impressive work of cinematic art from the brilliant Ana Lily Amirpour.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).