on May 5, 2004
98 minutes of excellence. I am never a big fan for romantic films. Especially with the current scene filled with countless teen-or-chick flicks, I have become very picky on this category. I watched it with skepticism. 98 mins later, I switch off the TV in great relief, and also with understanding of why a few people do not enjoy it.
Generally, people who dislike this film have the following reasons:
1. Simple plot and no plot twist
2. Repetitive scenes
3. Few and confusing dialogues
4. No significant signs of intimacy or eroticism. Can it even be categorized into "Romance"?
One thing I have learnt from "In the Mood for Love" is also the same thing I wish romantic film directors would learn for a long time: Character Study and Development are often more important than unnecessary plot twist. There are pretty much only two characters in the movie, but by middle the audience could feel as if we know them for real. Thus we do feel the characters' happiness, pain and suffering. Yes, even if the time is set in 1962, Hong Kong.
The repetitive scenes do not represent lack of creativity. In fact it is one of the hardest tricks in my opinion. Although some actions are very similar, each scene has a subtle change in intimacy and impact for future relationship. Not one of the scenes can be taken away because they're all crucial links. As for the dialogue, it is few but every line is to the point. Each word is polished to sharpest and kept to minimum. Every word is a keyword.
Intimacy and eroticism are indications and eye-candy. Audience would understand immediately two people are in love. In my opinion this is director's point of view to choose it or not. Wong Kar Wai deliberately wanted to create a longing relationship without obvious physical contact to add up the sadness. In fact, the film has at least once "Implied Intimacy". ***SPOILER*** When Su told Chow she did not want to go back home in the cab, that "Implies"they would probably spend the night together ***SPOILER***
It could be artistic whether sex scenes are included or not. It just happens that WKW wants to present us a unique experience. I highly appreciate this effot. In the Mood for Love is a ten-level-upped romantic film and I definitely recommend it to every viewer, tertiary or not.
UPDATE: 2012 BLU-RAY EDITION
The new BluRay Edition is simply outstanding. Print quality and sound, you could not ask for better. The extra's WOW - lot of 2012 additional material, including a documentary that shows almost an hours worth of production footage that shows the original (largly funny!) original storyline, including a super cool dance number excerpt (deleted as too funny?). Specials on the soundtrack and much more -- I did not realize it was shot twice for instance (with Doyle quitting with the prospect of doing it again). Just amazing. Highly recommended. Let's hope they do it with 2046 next!
* * * *
I watched this movie late one night about a year ago on a 27 in TV. The pacing seemed slow and I was falling sleep through most of it. I decided to watch it again last night on my 42 inch TV and that alone made a huge difference, and also I was "in the mood" for watch a movie to try to understand the message.
First, you need to slow the introduction's written message down so you can read and ponder it a bit so that you are "in the mood" to discover its importance. I found after that I was totally interested in the story as it unfolded.
It has a really unusual "clips" feeling of giving us KEY glimpse of these two lonely people's lives. Maggie Cheung's character is witness (and accomplice really) to her boss having an affair on his wife; so she knows the signs and does not know how to react in a culture that has a belief system of "normal" and when the reality is not like that - hypocrisy and denial seem the "norm". Tony Leung's character is also helping his friend in being a womanizer - repeating several times, he is not like his friend. Both characters do it passively, but the world's reality around them - eventually to include their own spouses - makes them increasingly alone in the belief of how loving people treat each other.
There one big irony .. the betrail of Maggie Cheung's character when the relationship and love shared between these two people - almost a misfit in the "reality" of that culture; Maggie chooses to live the illusion.
Another interesting thing is TIMING; introduce in a sequence near the end when Tony and Maggie both visit the apartment building years later - as that love had anchored memories of happiness to it; or the possibility of happiness. He does not realize she is living there as a tenant in his old apartment says the old owner moved out and a "woman and child" live there now. He pauses at her door, as if about to knock, but continues on past. A moment of perfect potential timing - perhaps ignoring intuition (he brought a gift) being missed. Or would the past behaviours of denial and debating reality and illusion be followed?
Possible elements: in the out takes they do have sex; I wondered if the child was his? Also they meet years later (again in the out takes)and basically end up going their own ways - past pattern repeated, another opportunity missed.
Finally, there is a LOT similar in 2046 - the round openings and the openings and windows in 2046. The hallway with the round lights on the roof, and the hallways on the 2046 train. A lot of the dialogue is repeated, such as "sometimes your emotions catch you unaware" or "sometime feelings can creep up on you ..." I was pleasaantly surprised how well 2046 was an excellent follow up.
on October 25, 2003
This is one of the most beautiful film ever made. It tells the story of how two people's lives became somewhat entangled after discovering that their spouses were cheating on them with each other. There is nothing new about this in movies BUT the way the story was told is what made it so memorable. It unfurled at a slow and easy pace with soundtrack that matched the mood perfectly. The secret glances and silent stares that said everything yet nothing all left viewer with a case longing for weeks and weeks.
on July 19, 2004
'In the Mood for Love' is a touching, engrossing meditation on, you guessed it, love: what it is, what creates it, what ends it, what keeps it sewn strong together. All of these aspects are collected into a clever, lovely, sometimes devastating piece of artistry directed by the fabulous Wong-Kar Wai. Those of you who love romantic comedies or grand, epic love sagas will be immensely disappointed with his latest film. It is not either. Rather, it is a gem of cinema that strives for emotional truth and absolute realism. Inside of cramped apartments and old diners, that, too, is what the main characters of 'In the Mood for Love' yearn for.
The film takes place in Hong Kong during the year 1962. Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) and Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) have just moved into neighboring apartments and have met each other rather casually. But the two progressively realize a secret about their respective spouses and a profound relationship develops almost instantly. From there, the film sets a tone that is cislunar, seeming to float in its own world situated between reality and a sense of disconnection. Kar-Wai perfectly evokes this mood with fleeting slow-motion sequences accompanied by Christopher Doyle and Mark Li Ping-bin's delicately visceral cinematography. What ensues throughout the rest of the film (both plot-wise and technically) masterfully conveys romantic yearning.
The lead performances were breathtaking, namely Maggie Cheung as Su Li-zhen. From scenes of obvious hurt to moments of hidden despair, she ceaselessly astonishes. I'm surprised she did not receive the massive encomium she deserved from 2001 year-end awards groups, let alone the Oscars. But credit must also be given to Tony Leung as Chow Mo-wan, who managed to maintain a quiet, tired loneliness throughout the film. Leung also understood that it was only with Su Li-zhen that Chow Mo-wan felt truly alive with passion.
Another character worth mentioning are the breath-taking sets by production designer William Chang Suk-ping. The claustrophobic atmosphere offered by Suk-ping's dated, tight hallways was as much a part of the emotion and story line as each lead. Collectively, each part of the movie-making process (screenwriting, directing, designing, acting) achieved an assured concinnity; and in the end, what was already a personal, accessible study is lifted by Kar-Wai to a universal level using epic shots of Mayan temples and mysterious landscapes. As the credits role, it becomes apparent that 'In the Mood for Love' is arguably a masterpiece worthy of the all-time lists.
For me personally, the constant flashbacks of wind sifting past vinaceous curtains and artful conversations about love at its core only underscore 'Love's greatness. It is an unforgettably personal journey not to be missed.
on January 23, 2004
This is a love story set in China in the early 1960's. A man and woman are neighbours and discover that their spouses are having an affair. They meet to discuss, to commiserate, to comfort but finally fall in love. They don't want to be like their partners though. The movie is about passion, but also about restraint - how love can make us not act, rather than act. The scenes are beautifully shot, the costumes stunning and with the wet streets, the slow pacing and Nat King Cole singing Spanish in the background you are transported to another time. Often it felt more like an Italian film of the early 60's than a Chinese film made just last year. It is layered and rich in content and style.I have watched the DVD five or six times already and still discover more nuances with each viewing.
The Criterion Collection two-disc DVD is what DVD's are really meant to be. The making of featurette and the deleted scenes allow even deeper insights into an already intriguing film. I especially enjoyed the interviews with Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung at the Toronto Film Festival - you can really appreciate the charm of these two very talented actors.
This is a DVD to be enjoyed again and again. It is the gem in my DVD library.
on August 31, 2003
This is one of the most complete DVD packages I have ever seen ... something that couldn't have happened to a nicer film.
This package is one of few that takes advantage of what the DVD medium promised when it was launched. In the same small package all DVDs come in, the producers of In the Mood for Love somehow manage to include an array of the movie's trailers and posters from around the world, interviews with the major actors and director Wong Kar-wai, a second short film produced by Mr. Wong, an alternate ending to the story that had been under consideration, and director's commentary about all of it, along with a variety of subtitle options. There is also a special booklet that has the translated short story the film was based on, an essay about the film by a well-known Hong Kong critic and a very interesting (if unevenly translated) essay about the setting for the film by a local historian. All in all, a really amazing collection of information.
Of course, none of that would matter if the film it was all based on wasn't so darn good.
The story is wonderfully understated, told with deft simplicity and a delicate hand. On the surface, it's a relatively simple tale about two couples in neighboring Hong Kong apartments in 1962. Through circumstantial evidence, Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan discover that their always-on-the-road spouses are having an affair -- a discovery that comes into focus as the stay-at-home half of each couple discovers the attraction each has for the other.
But the beauty of this film comes more from what is left out than what is put in. The dialogue is sparse, and the acting is elegantly austere. The faces of the unfaithful spouses aren't shown at all during the film, and the film's main conflict comes not when Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan discover they are being cheated on but when they fail to react the way most would expect.
Add to that unusual camera angles that at times pull the viewer into the scene and a haunting soundtrack guaranteed to stay in mind hours after the end of the film. The final result is a film that feels like a blend between an old classic and a modern masterwork, a recipe for great entertainment.
on July 4, 2003
This amazing film by Wong Kar-Wai tells the tale of two neighbors living in Hong Kong in the '60's. As the story unfolds, the two come to the realization that their respective spouses are having an affair. The piece is so evocative of both mood and time, with gorgeous costumes, foggy streets, rendezvous in the rain and two achingly beautiful leads. Not too much plot to speak of, but with a mood so effective, who needs one?
Second viewing: Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung turn in gorgeous performances (in every sense of the word) but Cheung particularly impressed me this time around. That could be because hers is the more outward performance, and Leung's is more internal. Both, however, were powerful.
The cinematography was outstanding. Not only is this a beautiful film, but each and every camera angle is chosen with utmost care and precision. Slow motion and digitization effects are used to great effect. The care taken with the visuals of this movie is incredible.
Those dresses... about 15 of them, some repeated more than once... exquisite.
And I want to get noodles in a thermos.
on July 3, 2003
This latest film by WKW, a Hong Kong director of uncommon style and vision, is definitely not a work to appeal to the general public. But then few of WKW's films do. The pace is slow by conventional standard, without much "action" that would satisfy the attention-deficient. This, perhaps, is the fault of the person(s) who decided on the title of the film, which at a glance would seem to promise some sensual physical interactions between the stars. Thankfully this never materialize to ruin the feel of the film. The Chinese title - loosely translated "years like flowers," is much closer to the essence of the film, which is the transient nature of one's youth and, implicitly, the melancholy and regret from not taking advantage of the few chances one has in life for happiness. The plot, in brief, deals with the chance encounter of one man and one woman who fall in love with each other in the course of simultaneously discovering that their respective spouses have been carrying on an affair with each other. The pace is very deliberate, with spot on use of color, slow motion, music (Nat King Cole featured prominently) and a minimum of dialogue that contribute to the film's ethereal quality. The coda is set in Angkor Wat, and it is one of saddest and most haunting moments in film that I have ever seen and stayed with me for days after my first viewing of the film. The shooting of the film supposedly took quite a long time, well over one year and a lot of footages shot ended up on the cutting floor. The bonus disk gives a hint of the work in progress nature of WKW's directing style. Some of the outtakes were actually quite different in feel than the eventual film and it is a credit to WKW's vision that he is able to fashion a beautiful work of art from disparate materials.
A film to be watched, re-watched and savored.
on March 21, 2003
In the Mood for Love is such a charm despite a very simple plot. The year was 1962. Chow Mo Wan, a newspaper editor, recently moved into a dwelling populated by Shanghai immigrants with his wife. Through casual and accidental encounters Chow exchanged pleasantry with So Lai Jun (Mrs. Chan) who later found out about her husband's affair with Chow's wife. Heartbroken and devastated of the cruel truth, Chow buried himself in his job while So indulged in nightly movie screening. They began to let down the guard for one another and spent time during the mahjong sessions of their landlords. The characters forced themselves to abide by inveterate conventions and cultural morale that forbid an affair to become fruition. ...
Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung as usual deliver an impeccable performance in this 2001 Wong Kar-Wai release. Leung portraited a man who is unsatisfied about his marriage and denied his spouse's infidelity. Cheung seizes the empathy of her character who is accustomed to hush about reason for his husband's frequent absence. Maggie Cheung is elegant and charming in this movie. Not to mention the dazzling wardrobe she wears consistently over the entire movie. Her leg movements are captured in slow motion. Her arms dangling with the thermos meant for the late-night porridge order-to-go from the street vendor.
The movie is shot through a minimalist scope, that is, message is conveyed through very succinct scripts and imagery full of lush colors and meticulously chosen soundtracks. The film is shot in a very stealthy manner; it is as if a pin camera being fastened on the wall of the apartment. Conversations between Leung and Cheung are shot in an eavesdropping manner. The director seeks to de-emphasize other characters in order to focus on Leung and Cheung. Their spouse, respectively, always have their back facing the camera. Their performances are conducted by voices. The gaffer has done an excellent job adjusting the hues of light which is relatively dim throughout.
As a native of Hong Kong (born in mid-70s) who never witnessed the city in glory 60s, In the Move for Love has done me a favor in reminiscence. Wong Kar Wai makes sure everything is done just like when it was the 60s. Yes, even the restaurant menu to which Leung and Cheung skimmed through briefly. It was a green piece of cardboard decorated with some coconut tree clip art. Menu with such heavy Malaysian touch can still be found at local cafés that serve a fusion menu of Malaysian spices and sirloin steaks. Napkins are folded diamond-shaped like paper planes and kept at the far end of the booth. Leung and Cheung sip coffee from flimsy green chinaware cups that hold maybe three gulps. The green vinyl blinds hang unevenly at the office windows. The rotary phone. The subleased rooms where newly-wed couples rent and the kitchen with whom they share with their landlords. The white-collared wardrobe worn by housemaids. These are all the epitomes of lives in the 60s, in Hong Kong. Some find this mmovie a little slow-paced. I savor the manner in which the film is made. I savor all the details, the choice of colors and the tiptoeing scores in the film. 4.6 stars...
on March 6, 2003
In the mood for love is easily vintage Wong Kar Wai - Slow scenes of reflection, simple characters leading simple lives, excellent cinematography, slow but deliberate pacing and a dark moody atmosphere. Because of this, a lot of people call this an "art" film. And for every people who say this is an excellent HK noir film, there are people who will insist that this is a boring, slow and shallow movie.
The story is simple. Chow Mo-Wan (Tony Leung) and his wife move into their apartment on the same day that Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) and her husband move into the apartment next door. Initally, their relationship consists of passing pleasantries and mundane mahjong games with the neighbors. Soon, circumstances like their spouses' absence, and the suspicion that their spouses have a thing going on results in a friendship between the two. In the process, The two falls in love.
But this definitely isn't a love story. Remember, this is a Wong Kar Wai film. It's never a love story but rather a story about love. That love grows and eventually fades. That no one ever really does anything extraordinary or heroic for most of their lives. If you're looking for a good narrative story, rich character development, you will not find it here.
What you'll find are dark atmospheres/settings and conflicting emotions. Take note of the excellent physical details. The way Maggie cheung runs her hands thru her hair, the way smoke curls up from Tony Leung's cigarette, dark walls and alleyways on their way back home or from the noodle vendor.
This is a Wong Kar Wai movie not to be missed. It excels in its simplicity. Definitely not for the impatient. Here, the actors and the situations tell the story. Not much dialogue, not much action but the result is excellent in its quiet way.