How damned difficult it is to inaugurate a festival like Sitges. An opening film is key for those attending the contest to start with enthusiasm, energy, good footing and good feelings about the cinematographic marathon that they have ahead and, knowing this, the organization can choose two variants: bet on insurance with a crowd pleaser manual that floods the applause room or risk and catch as many spectators off guard as possible.
In this 2021 edition, the International Film Festival of Catalonia has embraced the second option and has pulled the agenda to bring us the latest from Ana Lily Amirpour; a veteran in these parts who presented in 2014 her debut ‘A girl comes home alone at night’ and who returned with her second feature film ‘Carnal Love’ in 2017.
Four years later, and after his television scramble in series such as ‘Castle Rock’ or ‘The Twilight Zone’, Margate’s return to the Catalan coast with ‘Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon’; a new style exercise difficult to classify in which he disguises himself at times as Jim Jarmusch to show us the world through the eyes of his charming and peculiar protagonist.
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The supernatural twist card
The foundation on which ‘Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon’ is built is built on the prolific technique of applying a fantastic twist to a widely known prototype story. In this case, Amirpour embraces the bases of the stories of “fish out of water” incorporating a supernatural aspect that integrates organically, intelligently and very self-consciously.
Unfortunately, the film’s narrative is too unbalanced between the first and second half of its footage. The portion prior to its equator, despite its ability to entertain and capture interest at all times, is disjointed as it develops as a compendium of less interconnected scenes than is desirable; something that enhances a sense of reboot when the mid point he makes an appearance with a more defined — and belated — conflict under his arm.
However, the director manages to overcome this obstacle and make ‘Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon’ make its way to the heart of the most complicit public thanks to two specific elements. The first one is a formal proposal as personal as usual, although somewhat more corseted than the one seen in ‘Carnal Love’, marked by a balance between kitsch and ultra-stylized, by Pawel Pogorzelski’s fantastic photography direction, and by electronic beats converted into an almost hypnotic mantra.
The second key factor, great claim of the tape, are characters that surprise by displaying such a great capacity for empathy despite its lack of development and dramatic progression. It is very difficult not to fall asleep before secondary like Ed Skrein’s Fuzz or Evan Whitten’s Charlie; although all interpretive praise should be directed at a Jeon Jong-seo spectacular as Mona Lisa, conquering the stalls based on looks and a handful of short phrases.
‘Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon’ is by no means an easy film to digest or suitable for all types of viewers, and it is far from perfect; but how wonderful to be able to open a film festival with such a free, unique and exhilarating how are you.
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Sitges 2021 | ‘Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon’: an enchanting story of a fish out of water with the stamp of Ana Lily Amirpour