In the Mood for Love (Dut yeung nin wa)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Hong Kong 1962.   Chow (Tony Leung – Happy Together, Hard Boiled) is a junior newspaper reporter with an elusive wife.   His new neighbour, Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung – Days of Being Wild, Irma Vep), is a secretary whose husband seems to spend all his time on business trips.   they become friends, making the lonely evenings more bearable.   As their relationship develops they make a discovery that changes their life forever…

In this sumptuous expolration of desire, internationally acclaimed director Wong Kar-Wai (Chungking Express, Happy Together, Fallen Angels) creates a world of sensuality and longing that will leave you breathless.   “In the Mood for Love” has seduced audiences and critics alike, winning awards at Cannes 2000 for best actor, cinematography and editing.

In The Mood For Love is a spellbinding and adult romance, beautifully filmed in traditional techniques that put Christopher Doyle’s photography as important as anything else. It’s moody, yet colourful palette, evokes a sultry, smoky atmosphere to perfectly accompany the enigmatic screenplay. It has a wonderful theme too, frequently accompanying slow motion sequences. I had thought the film was reminding me of 1950s British drama in its composition and character, but when that first slow motion scene came in, it became something else entirely. Throughout, Wong Kar Wai’s editing is sublime, languishing on key moments, cutting into others. It is a story driven by emotions rather than events; it isn’t entirely clear even how much time passes before the final act when we jump forward a year, and then a little further.

Chow (Tony Leung) and Mrs. Chan (Maggie Ceung) along with their spouses, are lodging in neighbouring apartments. Chow’s wife and Mr. Chan both work overseas a lot. Soon, it is clear they are having an affair. The remaining lonely couple start to share more and more time, but are determined not to fall into the same trap and stay faithful to their absent partners, regardless of what they may be up to. Regardless, they find it difficult to remain inconspicuous especially from the people who share their homes with them. Soon hard decisions have to be made.

What is fascinating about the narrative is that almost none of this is explicit. For example, we do see and hear both the spouses, but only briefly and never their faces. We are concerned only with the central pair and it is their conversations that reveal the path. The scene where they finally admit suspicions is brilliantly done.

Refreshingly, this is a purely emotional film about desire, and it is very powerful. Absolutely superb and I can’t think of anything similar in recent years. It is unique and quite special.

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