Monday, May 30, 2011

#297. In The Mood For Love (2000)

Directed By: Wong Kar-Wai

Starring: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Maggie Cheung, Ping Lam Siu

Tag line: "Feel the heat, keep the feeling burning, let the sensation explode"

Trivia:  Filming was shifted from Beijing to Macau after Chinese authorities demanded to see the completed script. Wong Kar-Wai never uses scripts.

Out of our quarrels with others we make rhetoric. Out of our quarrels with ourselves we make poetry.” – William Butler Yeats 

Lost love can be a devastating, yet is not nearly as tragic as true love left unexplored. In The Mood For Love is the story of two people, Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) and Mr. Chow (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), whose marriages are falling apart, yet in each other they find consolation, reassurance, and, eventually, feelings of a much deeper nature. Unfortunately, their personal beliefs prevent them from acting upon these feelings. They have doubly suffered; first losing love, and then failing to grasp it when it was once again within reach.

The setting is Hong Kong in the 1960's. Mrs. Chan and her husband are renting a room in an apartment building, yet because he's frequently away on business, Mrs. Chan spends many evenings alone. Renting the room right next door to them is Mr. Chow. Mr. Chow's wife also works late hours, which means he spends a great deal of time alone as well. Before long, the two lonely spouses begin to suspect that their significant others are having affairs, and upon comparing notes, discover that the ‘other woman’ sharing Mr. Chan’s bed is none other than Mr. Chow’s wife! The mutual heartache Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow experience as a result of this infidelity develops into a friendship, and that friendship soon leads to a deep affection for one another.  Yet their refusal to behave as badly as their spouses prevents the two from ever becoming intimate with one another, thus denying themselves a love affair that might have changed their lives.

From this elementary story, In The Mood For Love weaves a complexly emotional tale of how convention and ethics can sometimes lead to loneliness and betrayal. Director Wong Kar-Wai, whom I consider one of the most dynamic filmmakers of recent times, has often dabbled in the theme of lost love (his earlier film, Chungking Express, tells not one, but two stories of failed romance). With In The Mood For Love, he brings the injured parties together, yet does not follow the standard plot line by allowing them to become romantically involved (at least not on a physical level).

Along with its fascinating tale of unrequited affection, the cinematic style of In The Mood For Love is also quite impressive. As the scorned duo make their way through the lonely streets of Hong-Kong, the camera follows their movements in slow-motion, as if the two were walking along in a dream state. Aside from stylistically enhancing the film, sscenes such as these also work towards developing the characters of Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow; with the world around them passing by at normal speed, they are either unable or unwilling to keep up with it.

While exploring the turbulent emotions and conflicting societal mores that can make or break a relationship, In the Mood for Love manages to be simultaneously heartbreaking and poetic, flowing as smoothly as a classical sonata composed by a maestro. The story may be a simple one, but its execution, combined with the marvelously realized setting and oft-hypnotic tone, work to make In the Mood for Love an unforgettably marvelous cinematic experience.


Movie Guy Steve said...

So true, so true. This is perhaps the height of romantic film--a multiple hankie movie if ever I saw one. I can't think of another film that filled me with as much heartache.

And I don't even like this genre!

Dave Becker said...

@Steve: Romantic films are usually hit and miss with me, but when they're done right, I love them. And this one was definitely done right!

Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment.

Anthony Lee Collins said...

I've got to see this one. I loved his Fallen Angels.

I saw a trailer for this in a theater once, among several other trailers for movies about infidelity. It could have been four trailers for the same movie, except that one of the four (the one for this movie) was gorgeous. It made it look like the others were shot by amateurs.

Dave Becker said...

Anthony: Wong Kar-Wai has become a favorite of mine. I love CHUNGKING EXPRESS, and FALLEN ANGELS was, indeed, excellent.

And the film's beauty is one of its many strengths. Definitely worth checking out.