December 11, 2012

Mona Lisa challenges the audience to see the under-world of London as having a personality. That personality is front-and-center with George, an ex-con (or whatever a convict equivalent is on that island – I am too uncultured to know), who takes us through a voyage of the black market of sex.


Is it any wonder that the oldest profession in the world involves providing men pleasure? That there is an intricate, and on the surface, societal acceptance of this necessity – while at the same time turning a blind eye from the distributors of such sex commodities – reveals its tension in polite society. The countless posh boutique hotels which the “black tart” conducts her “business”, and locations which George must inhabit as a driver/security guard, condone her trade, so long as it is done quietly.
No doubt there are those on the vanguard in the hotels which are looking to ostracize her activity. Yet why? It is in fact not in the morality of the exchange of money for sexual conduct, but in fact the devaluation of the society which the hotel is a member of. And this is how this is a strongly English film, one which would not have been duplicated elsewhere.


For elsewhere, we do not have the strained vanity of class as we do in England. Where George clearly knows his place, and where his master, the one who pays the bills and owns the means of production in this corner of the blackness, despite generating enough profit to be modestly wealthy, still also knows his place. Denny, the boss, may negotiate in these same hotels, but he will never be seen as a born member of such high-society.


The class differences are very striking juxtaposed to American culture. Girls of the lower class willfully and voluntarily enter the sex trade. Indeed, they have a choice in the sense that society does not expect them to mobilize upward and enter business management or become an erstwhile professional. Sex is their professional option. If they can handle the perversion of old men – such as having a fetish for injecting heroin into nubile veins – they can earn a killing.


Yet the power, paradoxically, resides in those who have the capital to exchange for their bodies. The paradox is this: sex is scarce on the male side of the species, yet their resources provide them a means to get what they want.


It is human nature, of course, to always want more. And every character in the film shows this trait. It is what creates a plot to begin with; not to say the plot is artificial, only that in the machinery of the seedy underworld, we can see every character play their roles organically.


The ending provides an abrupt diversion to our fixation on George. It was pleasant to see there are some things that never change.


Grade: B+



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