- Nostalgic, elegiac tale of doomed romance 3/6/2002 12:00:00 AM by seandchoi
I think that New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell wrote the best one line review of In the Mood for Love when he said that it is "dizzy with a romantic spirit that's been missing from the cinema forever." How true those words are! Truly romantic films are so rare these days, while films that include plenty of sex and nudity (which are often portrayed in a smutty and gratuitous manner) abound. So, given this cinematic climate, Wong Kar-wai's latest film feels like a much needed breath of fresh air. In the Mood for Love is about the doomed romance between two neighbors ("Mr. Chow," played by Tony Leung and "Mrs. Chan," played by Maggie Cheung), whose spouses are having an illicit affair, as they try "not to be like them." But after hanging out with each other on lonely nights (while their spouses are away "on business"/"taking care of a sick mother"), they fall madly in love, and must resist the temptation of going too far.
Several factors are responsible for making In the Mood for Love a new classic among "romantic melodramas," in the best sense of that term. First, the specific period of the film (i.e. 1960's Hong Kong) is faithfully recreated to an astonishing degree of detail. The clothes (including Maggie Cheung's lovely dresses), the music (e.g. Nat King Cole), and the overall atmosphere of this film evokes a nostalgia for that specific period. Second, Christopher Doyle's award-winning, breathtakingly beautiful cinematography creates an environment which not only envelopes its two main characters, but seems to ooze with romantic longing in every one of its sumptuous, meticulously composed frame. Make no mistake about it: In the Mood for Love was the most gorgeous film of 2001. (It should also be mentioned that Wong Kar-wai's usual hyper-kinetic visual style is (understandably) toned down for this film, although his pallet remain just as colorful.) Third, there is the haunting score by Michael Galasso, which is accompanied by slow motion sequences of, e.g. Chan walking in her elegant dresses, Chan and Chow "glancing" at each other as they pass one another on the stairs, and other beautiful scenes which etch themselves into one's memory. The main score--which makes its instruments sound as though they're literally crying--is heard eight times throughout various points in the film and it serves to highlight the sadness and the longing which the two main characters feel. Fourth, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung both deliver wonderful performances (Leung won the prize for best actor at Cannes) and they manage to generate real chemistry on screen.
The above elements coalesce and work so nicely together to create a film that feels timeless, "dizzyingly romantic," and, in a word, magical. In the Mood for Love, perhaps more than any other film of 2001, reminded me why it is that I love "going to the movies." And I guess that is about the highest compliment that I can pay to a film.
- The most disarming romance ever filmed. 11/29/2004 12:00:00 AM by OttoVonB
In 60s Hong Kong, a man and woman move in the same day into adjacent apartments with their respective spouses. Soon they suspect their ever absent spouses of having an affair with one-another. A strange bond emerges between the man and woman as they cope with their sadness by taking turns playing each other's spouse, before a more complex bond emerges...
No summary can do it justice, for Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-Wai's "In the Mood for Love" is nothing short of a miracle. A story about sadness that manages to be touching and at times funny. A romance that never feels forced or fake. No doubt the director's method has a lot to do with that.
Directed from an inexistent screenplay (though the concept largely flows from a Japanese short story) to favor improvisation, the film is immediately set apart by the freshness of it's performances. All the film revolves around that and the rest is pure enhancement. At the core of the film are two characters that will ease into your heart and stay there long after the end credits roll: Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung are simply amazing and no language barrier undermines a single fragment of immediacy and truth they display. The additional material is also top-notch: the films is magnificent to behold (in part lensed by "Hero"'s Christopher Doyle) and the music is heartbreaking.
This is something everybody must see, if only because it is by far the most heartfelt, mature and authentic "love story" out there. Unmissable.
- Beautiful, Elegant and Restrained 1/29/2005 12:00:00 AM by mikecalla
I won't bore you with story and plot lines, as they have been presented many times already on this page, so? It's been along time coming since I have seen such a film. Beautiful, elegant and restrained, with a narrative pace to match. A film with sensitivity and understated qualities that is rare in these times of clichéd plots. The beautifully subdued photography, saturated in rich luxurious colors, and for lack of better words, each frame is filled with an air of tension. The settings and locations are used repeatedly but the film manages to breath new life into them each time they featured, there always seems to be a key prop, light fixture, or set piece to slightly clue the audience as to where we are in the characters world.
The acting reminds me of the "The Bicycle Thief", not the style, but the fact that you forget that you are watching two actors engaged in their craft. There is meaning behind every gesture and almost every movement has assigned significance to explain the inside world of the characters, the relationship, the feelings, and situation of the two lovers. The dialogue is sparse but like the rest of the movie, is imbued with meaning. Speaking of meaning, the soundtrack is infectious. Used here it becomes a story telling device. And although the film is of Chinese origins, even a song sung in Spanish by Nat King Cole imparts the film with subtle meaning. The orchestrated soundtrack is repetitive, but the repetition is what makes it comfortable. It is used in conjunction with the story, and not just a means to put music to action, or to cue the audience to feel a certain way at a certain plot point.
I would not recommend this film to anybody, I fear most people would be jaded by the calm flow of the story, but I would recommend it to someone who is looking for an alternative to the romantic schlock that fills the multiplexes on our side of the world. I must say that I was completely taken by this film, and continued to watch it night after night. The story takes time to present itself and bears repeated viewings as very few films in this genre are open to such a broad interpretation. A very beautiful movie.
- Possibly Wong Kar-Wai's best film 12/17/2000 12:00:00 AM by repulsion
It's easy to see why many people consider In the Mood for Love to be Wong Kar-Wai's best film. The toned down appeal of the film, centering on the studied view of a relationship put through an emotional ringer, is a retread into Happy Together territory but without the hyper-kinetic patchwork of jarring film stocks and hyper-saturated sequences that have become a trademark of Kar-Wai's films since Chungking Express. Like Soderbergh's The Limey, this is a different kind of curio for Kar-Wai; where dialogue and plot are forsaken by mood and composition in order to create a tale of two delicate lives in a seemingly confining emotional stasis.
It's a testament to the genius of Kar-Wai that he is capable to making such a simple tale so resonating. Chow Mo-Wan (Tony Leung) and Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) move in next-door to each other within the same apartment building. He's a journalist who dreams of publishing martial-arts novels and she is a secretary at a shipping company. Their eventual coupling is obvious from the beginning but the pleasure here is the way that Kar-Wai ambiguously paints such a journey with his grand masterstrokes.
The key to the success of the film is Kar-Wai's use of the interior space, playing with foreground and background planes in ways that are similar to the works of Polanski. During the wooingly sensuous first half of the film, Kar-Wai isolates Leung and Cheung within shots in such a way that the second person in a conversation is never visible. Kar-Wai is concerned with environment and space here, creating a cramped emotional dynamic between his characters. It's also telling that Kar-Wai never chooses to focus on the physicality of Mo-Wan and Li-zhen's spouses. Their faceless partners are noticeably absent from the film, as they are tending to their own love affairs with each other.
This is not to suggest that In the Mood for Love is a confining experience because Kar-Wai manages to inundate his film with broad splashes of hypnotic camera movement and sound. There is one shot where Cheung's slow, sensual rise up a metaphorical stairway turns into Leung's descent down the very same stairwell; their movements perfectly compliment each other, bookending the shot and creating a sense of erotic duality between the two figures. Their souls have connected but they have yet to physically unite. The erotic displacement of these scenes is both fascinating and frustrating, as two star-crossed lovers reject physical consummation due to their humble fidelity.
Other scenes in the film are punctuated with brief slow-motion shots of Cheung erotically moving through her interior surroundings, set to Mike Galasso's hauntingly beautiful score. Cheung's dresses beautifully compliment her exterior space as she moves slowly through her surroundings. Her movements slowly build up to what seems to be an inevitable fusion between Li-szhen and her dream lover even though the seduction process seems to be entirely sub-conscious.
If I make it seem that these two characters are more like two birds unleashing pheromones on each other, it probably isn't that far-fetched of a statement. The tight bond these two characters have with their internal spaces is almost as intense as their relationship to the exteriors. The film rarely moves into an exterior space and when the camera does it is usually to peak through oval windows and symbolic bars that always remind us that these characters are like confined animals. Kar-Wai continues to tease us even when the lovers get close enough to touch, shattering the couple's proximity to each other by shooting them through mirrors or through gaps within articles of clothing located inside of a closet. Mother Nature even seems to respond to their love lust, often unleashing a soft crest of rain over the characters after their bodies have glided near each other.
Kar-Wai's hauntingly atmospheric shots of a waterfall allowed Leung's Lai Yu-Fai to experience a cathartic release in Happy Together, even if Leslie Cheung's Ho Po-wing was not there to enjoy it with him. By that film's end, love was so inextricably bound to the act of war that a third man's muted declarations of love signaled Yu-Fai's realization that his dreams of seeing a waterfall would bring him inner peace, even if it would not bring him back his lover. Mo-Wan's journey terminates within the confines of a crumbling temple. His own emotional depletion is paralleled nicely with the political climate of his country, and the absence of Li-szhen is only made tolerable by the fact that Kar-Wai allows Mo-Wan to experience a release of sorts. Mo-Wan caters to an ancient myth and his secretive release into a crack in the temple leaves him capable of living his days with the hope that all his loss and heartache somehow served a higher purpose.
- what a poetic way to make a film.... 9/2/2004 12:00:00 AM by lilaqueen
When I fist watched the movie, I said to myself, "so a film can be made like this." Wong Kar Wai's gorgeous poetic love story captured me throughout and even after the film. I must admit this is one of the best love movies, maybe the best of all, I have ever watched. The content and the form overlaps perfectly. As watching the secret love we see the characters in bounded frames that limits their movements as well as their feelings. Beautiful camera angles and the lighting makes the feelings and the blues even touchable. I want to congratulate Christopher Doyle and Pin Bing Lee for their fantastic cinematography which creates the mood for love. Also the music defines the sadness of the love which plays along the beautiful slow motion frames and shows the characters in despairing moods. And of course the performances of the actors which makes the love so real. Eventually, all the elements in the film combined in a perfect way under the direction of WKW and give the audience the feeling called love.