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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
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
gratuitous manner) abound. So, given this cinematic climate, Wong
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,
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
I was recommended this film as one of the best love stories ever told. And as I am huge fan of love, I bought the tickets and sat myself in the theatre. After 90 minutes I left the theatre with nothing but disappointment and the theme song as the only positive thing of the film. I was appalled at the story itself, that two people can love each other but be so afraid as to never act it. I just couldn't go passed the language barrier and the cultural barrier. The second time I ran into it... I was in a different mood, no longer had any expectation ... and had more patience, more relaxed mind to "see" the film... and as soon as I opened my eyes, I discovered the love... the beauty of the film. I went beyond the language and the love story and saw the acting (not even for a moment did I ever felt like they were acting!) and the cinematography. The first time I heard a definition of what a film is, I was told that it should be a chain of perfectly balanced photographs (shots) and this is the film to match the description. Almost every shot has an idea behind it, and combined with the music... and the light effects... the result is just a masterpiece! And a masterpiece is just something that you must have in your collection of films.
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.
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.
Two people living in the same flat complex find their partners are
having an affair with each other. As they try and piece together how it
happened, they also embark on an emotional journey that aches for a
Building on his previous success with Happy Together and Chungking Express, Wong Kar Wai gives us this rather old fashioned and marvellous story of reawakened passions, yearning and unrequited love.
Possibly, In the Mood for Love is not to everyone's taste. It wanders in rather lazily at 98mins: not particularly long for a film, but it appears longer because not a lot really happens. But this lazy feel conceals a quite tightly constructed film. Most of the story is cunningly woven around a series of set piece role plays, where the characters act out presumed scenarios between their respective spouses, trying to work out how the affair started. I say cunning because, of course, this makes it difficult for the audience (and the characters) to tell what is "in-role" and what is genuine.
If all this sounds rather arty and self-conscience, that's because it is. Unashamedly so. And it is played to perfection by two of Hong Kong's finest, Maggie Cheung and Leung Chui Wai, with some excellent support from Ping Lam Siu and Rebecca Pan.
It is also a virtuoso performance by Wong Kar Wai, who treats the audience to a sensory, and sensual, overload. Bringing together Christopher Doyle (who later deployed his lush, over-ripe style on Hero) and Pin Bing Lee (whose beautifully understated style can be seen on Springtime in a Small Town) was cinematographic genius. It has all the bold beauty of Doyle, without, frankly, the Athena-poster cheesiness of his work on Hero. The music, as always with Wong, is prominent. From Nat King Cole singing in Spanish, to the haunting strings of the main theme, it perfectly matches the eclectic beauty of the images.
All in all a top film, whether judged on plot, acting, cinematography or soundtrack. Similar to, but more accessible than, Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire, this is a beautiful, old fashioned story about love lost and regained.
And watch out for Tony Leung's hotel room 2046, which presaged Wong's recent film of the same name.
The most attractive factor that lies in this masterpiece of a film is not
the beautiful lead actors. It isn't their outstanding acting and sizzling
To me, it is the mis-en-scene of the entire movie. The settings, the lighting, the props... all add to the mood for love between the main characters. A whiff of smoke from Chow's cigarette tells us his state of mind, the ever-changing tight-fitting cheongsams of Lizhen reflects the constraints of decision-making, the ruins of Angkor Wat ties in with the deteriorating relationship of the two leads.
The excellent use of mis-en-scene gives the film just the right amount of feel needed to flesh out the complicated nature of the characters' relationship. The film leaves the audience fruitlessly yearning for more.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is written for filmgoers who may have walked away from "Mood for Love" perplexed and confused about paths the main characters choose in life. From reading other comments and reviews it seems that many viewers and critics missed some very important details which may have prevented them from enjoying this delightful tease of a movie.
We are so use to seeing blatant SEX in narrations that we forget that there was a time when filmakers would suggest the "dirty deed" by simply showing the slack-mouthed couples ride off in a sleigh or haywagon only to return into the next scene with a bulging gut or a fat toddler stuck to the hip..."Meet your child".
The director chose the same nostalgic approach in telling the story of Mr Chow and Mrs Chan. Last warning...SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
Mr Chow fools Mrs Chan into showing her real emotions when they rehearse his departure forever. Next scene: Mrs Chan leans her head on Mr Chow in the taxi and says "I do not want to go home tonight". Translation: "Let's Do It"
Why then did the couple just not do the modern thing of dumping their cheating spouses,get a divorce,raise their love child and live happily ever after? The answer is that this whole story takes place in Hong Kong during the Sixties. A bastard would live in a bleak life of shame if he were the child of an adulteress;whereas,a "legitimate" child could live a tragic but noble/honest life if his mother chose to raise him away from his cheating "father"-the invisible Mr Chan. In short,Mr Chow and Mrs Chan sacrifices their relationship for the future of their child.
That is why Mr Chow,upon learning that Mrs Chan lives alone with a little boy gives a knowing smile and ends his dreams of making Mrs Chan his Mrs Chow. He then,also realizes why Mrs Chan went to all the way to Singapore to be with him,only to reconsiders at the last momment and leave..,choosing to never see him again.(But not before taking some unnamed keepsake) Mr Chow lives with this wonderful secret with no one to tell. No one,except for a crumbling temple wall and of course we the viewer,...but only if we listen carefuly.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Set in 1962 Hong Kong (in turbulent times, as we are informed), this
extremely intimate story of a failed romance between a two married
people tied to their traditions manages to recall the essence of old
Hollywood in scene after scene of lush colors, evocative yet restrained
sensuality (as opposed of the requisite sexuality and occasional nude
scenes which has become part of the norm of a romance in film), and the
use of facial expressions to suggest subtle changes in mood or
communication. It's not hard to see the influence of Marguerite Duras
here, since she is known for minimalism in storytelling as well as
describing powerful drama using the art of verbal and non-verbal
conversation between two characters with a strong bond as well as the
use of re-enacting scenes that could eventually take place in both the
characters' lives. From Hiroshima MON AMOUR to MODERATO CANTABILE, her
pen is strongly visible here from the moment we enter the cramped rooms
of Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) and Mrs. Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) to the
last scenes which explain the intensity of regret that he feels as he
recalls the opportunity which was lost in reaffirming this
The plot even resembles something that Duras could have written: Mr. Chow and Mrs. Su Li-zhen, neighbors in a tenement apartment while both being fairly successful professionals, begin to discover in the most banal of ways that their spouses are cheating on them, and they discover quite naturally, it's with each other. The question is, should they act upon what they also feel towards each other or not be like their partners? Every scene plays with the notion that at any moment they will give in to each other, and at one point, it is suggested that eventually they do though as intrusive as the camera is in detailing to us their encounters (which seem to occur on a daily basis as seen by the frequent changes of Cheung's dresses), we never see it. And just as not seeing either of their spouses heightens their own love story, not seeing them carry through with their attraction makes the eventual separation even the more bitter because at every moment we want for something to happen -- some catalyst -- and the only one which comes is when Leung reveals to her that he loves her, followed by his quietly brutal revelation that she will never leave her husband, which implies that neither will he. It also gives us a glimpse of what culture and timing can do: from a Western point of view, a consummation of their romance into a more solid, lasting affair would have been possible especially in the 60s, but as it's Hong Kong, cultural values are markedly different.
Performances here are of the high order: it's very easy to play a torrid love affair, but to continually play a repressed, platonic relationship that is brimming with desire only barely suggested is hard and makes all the sensuality more cerebral than palpable or visual. Cheung and Leung smolder and their blighted chemistry lingers long after the credits have rolled.
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