Without doubt, Leonardo da Vinci would have admired Pascal Cotte’s invention of a multi-spectral camera capable of a resolution of 240 million pixels. Whether or not the famed painter would appreciate that device being turned on his Mona Lisa to reveal twenty-six of her secrets is another matter. Like many of the “findings” themselves, we’ll never know for sure.
Caroline Cocciradi’s film is long on passion and short on craft. Although the subject matter is most certainly visual, it’s the sound that causes most of the discomfort. The volume levels amongst narrators allow Richard Gebhardt’s lines to boom loudly even as Cinzia Mandati Li Bassi’s saucy portrayal of Lisa di Antonio Maria Gherardini is welcomingly fun and flighty. The numerous international locations where Cotte expands on his thesis suffer from continuous voice/tape synchronization problems which only serve to weaken his authority. Pedi Talai’s largely minimalist score provides some relief to the, necessarily, pedantic tone of experts assessing the validity of the determined inventor’s “discoveries” (by journey’s end, the missing eyebrow/eyelash controversy and does-she-hold-a-blanket-or-a-cloak debate still have no irrefutable answers), but the synthetic strings are at odds with the original masterpiece under discussion.
Nonetheless, there’s much that can be learned about how paintings were laid out centuries ago and how “increased transparency” changes the reflective powers of pigment. The real dangers of cleaning and restoration of timeless works of art are also brought into the spotlight.
Despite the lack of linear narrative flow (Wayne Fogle and Jim Schultz’s illogical, jumpy editing does this production no service—especially the point/counterpoint sequences), the film is worth a look if only to savour one of the most incredible artistic creations of all time. For when all is argued and done, the truly wonderful intrigue surrounding the world’s most famous smile is, thankfully, still left to the eye and the mind of the beholder. JWR