In the Mood for Love

In the Mood for Love

In the Mood for Love (花樣年華)
Made in: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese, Shanghaiese
Director: Wong Kar Wai
Starring: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Rebecca Pan, Ping Lam Siu, Kelly Lai Chen
Year: 2000

Synopsis: Hong Kong, 1962. Su Li-Zheng (Maggie Cheung) is a secretary working for a business man, Mr. Ho (Kelly Lai Chen). Su rents a small apartment from Mrs. Suen (Rebecca Pan), and becomes neighbors with Chow Mo-Wan (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), who works for a local newspaper. Coincidentally, the two move in on the same day.

Su's husband and Chow's wife are absent most of the time. And even though there's plenty of activity in the building, Su and Chow spend much of their time alone. The two start running into each other often, and start a platonic friendship. But one night they learn that their respective spouses are cheating on them...with each other (Chow's wife is having an affair with Su's husband).

As they struggle to understand why, their friendship grows. Since he has more time on his hands, Chow decides to fulfill his youthful dreams of writing martial arts stories. Su helps, and the two end up spending a lot of time together. Amidst their conversations, they try an informal role-play to recreate how the infidelity between their respective partners might have started, which only leads to more emotional confusion and their deepening feelings for each other.

As difficult as it is, the two don't consummate their feelings, not only because of societal rules of the time, but because they don't want to be as guilty as their cheating spouses. But as time passes, they find it more and more difficult to keep their close friendship a secret.

Remarks: In the Mood for Love is a slow-paced drama full of subtleties and nuances. None of the strong emotional turning points are revealed directly through dialogue, but through conversations about seemingly unrelated topics and careful camera work. The way in which Wong Kar Wai achieves this is often clever, but mostly brilliant.

He also makes many homages to glamorous Hong Kong films from the 60s, and the soundtrack has a powerful, haunting effect. Often we are treated to the Nat King Cole's Aquellos Ojos Verdes (Those Green Eyes), Te Quiero dijiste (You said 'I love You'), and Quizás Quizás Quizás (Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps). The use of Yumeji's Theme (originally from the soundtrack Yumeji) is also has a strong effect.

The claustrophobic look of the apartment building's interior is a simple device, but does a convincing job of creating intimacy with the protagonists, and perhaps serving as a metaphor for the strong emotions brewing underneath their restrained exteriors. Overall, In the Mood for Love is a genuinely powerful, compelling, and sad love story that's undoubtedly an art film but far from being pretentious.

Who would like this movie: In the Mood for Love is for you if you're making a concerted effort to watch foreign films, curious to see what a good art film looks like, and if you like discussing/analyzing movies. This film will also be more meaningful to you if you understand the culture of Hong Kong in the early 60s, and at least have an idea of what Hong Kong cinema was like back then.

It's very slow (or methodical, if that sounds nicer), and therefore different from mainstream Hollywood cinema. But it's presentation of universal themes such as heartbreak and love make it mostly accessible to viewers who may be new to foreign films.

In the Mood for Love is the second film in a loose trilogy. It's preceded by Days of being Wild and followed by 2046.

(3 and 1/2 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

blog comments powered by Disqus

Thanks for reading the review of In the Mood for Love. Click here to return to Dramas (A-L)

Return to Home Page