DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE

Saturday, 17 February 2007


In The Mood For Love (2000) dir. Wong Kar-Wai
Starring: Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung


Guest review by Pasukaru

Oh, yes. Love is in the air. So I can’t help but think of the Hong Kong masterpiece "In The Mood For Love" by Wong Kar-wai. If one were to compile a list of the 10 best romantic films of all time, this gem would have to be considered.

The plot is simple: set in the early sixties in Honk Kong, two neighbors strike up a relationship after each discovers their respective spouses could be having an affair with each other. The ironic twist of fate is that they in turn develop an attraction. Now, here is where "In The Mood For Love" separates itself from the countless manufactured ‘romantic’ films that pollute our planet: they never actually consummate their love. What? No fleshy tryst?! The couple decides to not be like their spouses, despite the obvious fact that they are madly in love. Though of course this is not what makes it great, but everything -- from the luring soundtrack, to the understated performances by Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung, to the lush settings, to the lyrical visuals -- serves the sexy atmosphere.

Wong Kar-wai had been a scriptwriter before turning to direction, which makes his preference to shoot without a script more worthy of note. Many directors have attempted this, but most fail in delivering a satisfying movie. You could call him experimental, never avant-garde, but the subtle approach simply works with astounding results. “Visual poetry” is a nice way of putting it. It’s a culmination of years perfecting an anarchic style with master cinematographer Christopher Doyle through maverick films such as “Chungking Express” and “Fallen Angels”. Here, they’ve tamed the camera to a fetish-like restraint. Interestingly, to the exasperation of actors, crew, and financiers, the shoot took a Kubrickean 15 months to complete! Oh, but it was so worth it.

This film oozes desire. This improvisational style and the fly-on-the-wall perspective in cramped corridors and matchbox rooms make us feel as though we are eaves dropping on two people who obviously yearn for each other, but can’t seem to bring themselves to give in. The hypnotic atmosphere seduces. There is no rush to climax, or an explosion of suppressed longing, but a staid eroticism nestled between every frame. It’s subtractive cinema we as Westerners are simply not accustomed to, especially in this genre. Thus, the smallest gesture becomes relevant. Another interesting technique employed is how Wong Kar-wai deliberately conceals the faces of the spouses, keeping the audience always firmly fixed on the leads (and Cheung’s hips). The story is told in fragments; the audience is never certain where or when they stand, yet the elliptical timeline functions to adhere a mosaic of unfulfilled love. It’s like a wistful memory of two people, and the rendering of that memory to celluloid. Finally when the film ends, we desire to return to that dream like the lead character recollecting after the fact: “The past is something he could see but not touch." ‘Nuff said.

"In The Mood For Love" is a sublime experience you owe yourself and your loved one. Check it out.

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