Wong Kar-wai’s “In the Mood for Love” is beautifully poignant.
The subject of famed auteur Wong Kar-wai’s period work “In the Mood for Love” (2000) is a scandalous one even with today’s standards of morality, yet it is without the overly dramatic, loud scenes that one usually sees in films that tackle the same thing. In a nutshell, it is about a man and a woman drawn together by their respective spouses’ infidelity and how they dealt with the unexpected, unwanted but at the same time wanted, emotions that came with it.
Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) and Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung), together with their respective spouses and hosts, are next-door neighbors in a bustling apartment complex in 1962 conservative Hong Kong. Both Chow’s and Su’s partners are always away either on business trips or overnight shifts at work, and it doesn’t take long for them to realize that their spouses have been cheating on them with one another. This revelation, as well as the subtle confirmation from the cheating partners themselves in one particular scene, go without much fanfare that one might even miss it if they haven’t been paying attention. Chow and Su decided to reenact their spouses’ infidelity out of curiosity, but swore to never actually stoop down to their level. But one thing led to another eventually, and as Chow had put it, “Feelings can creep up just like that.” It’s a rather unfortunate circumstance, made worse with time and distance at a later period.
It’s interesting how “In the Mood for Love” tackles a subject that has already been showcased in many films then and now, yet even until today remains incomparable to any of these. The treatment is unique, too. Rather than focusing on the infidelity per se, it zeroed on in the partners that have been cheated on. For starters, we don’t even see the faces of their spouses at any point for the duration of the whole film. Instead, we the audience members get to see the development of Chow and Su’s characters as well as their feelings. They manage to have full restraint of their emotions in the sense that they actually didn’t give in to it, if that even makes any sense. The love between Chow and Su, despite being so obviously strong, remained unconsummated.
“In the Mood for Love” is beautiful, too, in terms of its outward appearance. Suffice it to say that the cinematography work, the songs selected, set design, and everything else fit perfectly with the story. In addition, the film gives us an overview of early to mid-‘60s Hong Kong, its society, and its accompanying values. Really, it’s difficult to write about “In the Mood for Love” without turning this feature into a full-blown, detailed essay analysis. There’s just so much to say about it. It’s simply one of those films that, after watching, would make you want to just sit for a while and ponder over it.
All stills in this feature were sourced from Beautiful Stills from Beautiful Films.
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