Category Archives: In the Mood for Love

In the Mood for Love Review

Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love artfully shows the lives of two people, Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan, dealing with the fact that their respective spouses are unfaithful and, in doing so, create a romance of their own.  Fidelity and infidelity, appropriateness and impropriety, and romanticism and realism are all contrasted in this movie.

Both Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan are played by incredibly attractive actors, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, and almost every shot in the movie accentuates this.  Mrs. Chan goes through several stunningly tailored cheongsam dresses that show off her remarkable figure and Mr. Chow looks like the personification of masculinity in his suits.

The saturated color of the shots, along with the lighting and framing of the actors, only add to the sensuality of the film.  The heightened sexuality of scenes with these two main characters shot in slow motion to a non-diagetic song which gives them an almost dream-like quality.  These are starkly contrasted to multiple scenes in the pouring rain or when the characters are eating dinner together that bring the movie back to more realistic terms when that dreamlike sense is broken.  The camera returning to a more natural shot, paired with the silence, juxtapose other moments in the film.

Even though their spouses are unfaithful, Chow and Chan are still concerned with propriety.  They don’t want to be seen spending too much time together, even if they are simply collaborating for Chow’s work.  They even go so far as to camp out in a room together because Mrs. Chan does not want to give the wrong impression  This is a direct contrast to their partners, shown by the fact that Mr. Chan doesn’t even bother to buy two different handbags for his wife and his lover, who are neighbors.

The songs show the more ambiguous or gray elements of relationships. One of these songs, sung in Spanish, repeats the phrase “quizás, quizás, quizás” which is translated to mean “perhaps.”  Throughout the movie, Chow and Chan explore the possibilities of how their spouses began their affair, perhaps this is how their spouses got together; as well as the possibilities in their relationship, perhaps this will when their relationship finally blossoms.  These scenes can either be the turning point when a relationship becomes something more or when the characters pull away for the sake of propriety.  The whole question of “perhaps” resonates throughout all of their interactions.

Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love shows the journey of two characters dealing with unfaithful relationships.  These relationships are defined by their ambiguity, shown through music and the characters’ own reluctance to consummate any form of a relationship.  They are further defined by the contrast between the heights of romance and the harshness of reality.  The technical elements of the film served to show and reinforce these themes in the relationships.

In the Mood for Love

Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love artfully shows the lives of two people, Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan, dealing with the fact that their respective spouses are unfaithful and, in doing so, create a romance of their own.  Fidelity and infidelity, appropriateness and impropriety, and romanticism and realism are all contrasted in this movie.

Both Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan are played by incredibly attractive actors, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, and almost every shot in the movie accentuates this.  Mrs. Chan goes through several stunningly tailored cheongsam dresses that show off her remarkable figure and Mr. Chow looks like the personification of masculinity in his suits.

The saturated color of the shots, along with the lighting and framing of the actors, only add to the sensuality of the film.  The heightened sexuality of scenes with these two main characters shot in slow motion to a non-diagetic song which gives them an almost dream-like quality.  These are starkly contrasted to multiple scenes in the pouring rain or when the characters are eating dinner together that bring the movie back to more realistic terms when that dreamlike sense is broken.  The camera speed returning to normal and no longer zoomed close and tilting up the actors’ bodies, and the silence all juxtapose other parts of the film.

Yet even though their spouses are unfaithful, Chow and Chan are still concerned with propriety.  They don’t want to be seen spending too much time together even if all they are doing is collaborating for Chow’s work.  They even go so far as to camp out in a room together because Mrs. Chan does not want to give the wrong impression to the people she lives with about the relationship between her and Mr. Chow.  This is a direct contrast to their partners, shown by the fact that Mr. Chan doesn’t even bother to buy two different handbags for his wife and his lover, who are neighbors.

There are also songs which are played repeatedly throughout the film.  The songs show the more ambiguous or gray elements of relationships. One of these songs, sung in Spanish, repeats the phrase “quizás, quizás, quizás” which is translated to mean “perhaps.”  Throughout the movie, Chow and Chan explore the possibilities of how their spouses began their affair, perhaps this is how their spouses got together; as well as the possibilities in their relationship, perhaps this will when their relationship finally blossoms.  These scenes can either be the turning point when a relationship becomes something more or when the characters pull away for the sake of propriety.  The whole question of “perhaps” resonates throughout all of their interactions.

Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love shows the journey of two characters dealing with unfaithful relationships.  These relationships are defined by their ambiguity, shown through music and the characters’ own reluctance to consummate any form of a relationship.  They are also defined by the contrast between the heights of romance and the harshness of reality.  The more technical aspects of how this movie is filmed serve to show these two themes in relationships.

In the Mood for Love Film Review

Wong Kar Wai’s Hong Kong film In the Mood for Love premiered in May of 2000 at the Cannes Film Festival in France.  Wong, a Hong Kong Second Wave filmmaker, had already attained some status internationally, but this film solidified his presence as an international auteur.  The film was well received and was even nominated for the Palme d’Or.  Since its release, the film has received much critical acclaim.  Much of the charm of the film derives from the nature of the filming style and plot, which leaves much of the content to the imagination of the viewer.   Because much is left unsaid, many interpretations can be made about the film.  This makes the experience of watching it not only emotional, but also intellectual.  While In the Mood for Love may not be the most intense or suspenseful film, it certainly makes the viewer think about the nature of human relationships and how quickly they can change.

The film opens in Hong Kong in 1962 with the two main characters and their respective spouses both moving into the same apartment complex on the same floor.  The leading male, Mr. Chow played by Tony Leung who can often be found in Wong Kar Wai’s films, and the leading female, Mrs. Chan played by Maggie Cheung, are both often seen alone because their spouses have jobs that require them to either consistently work overtime or to be out of the country on business.  Over the course of the movie, the two characters begin to realize that their spouses are having an affair with each other.  In the midst of their domestic relationships crumbling, they develop a new relationship with each other as they try to imagine what led their spouses to becoming closer.  The pair then has to manage a secret relationship and try to rise above their own significant others.  The reason why much of this film is left to interpretation is mainly because the nature of Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan’s relationship is never clearly established.  They are often seen together trying to help each other get past their hardships with some undertones of romantic feelings, but it is difficult to tell whether or not they have a sexual relationship.  This lack of an obvious dynamic between the two characters actually makes the film more intriguing and allows the viewers to decide for themselves just how close the two characters became.

Another aspect of the film that adds to its overall quality is the style and the mise en scène of the shots.  In many of the scenes, much of the area on camera is obstructed in some manner.  Some examples of this include scenes being shot through a mirror, being shot in a narrow hallway, or being shot through bars.  Filming the scenes this way makes them feel cramped and almost uncomfortable for the viewer, which may be a reflection of the emotions of the main characters.  The characters may feel trapped or claustrophobic, either in their relationships with their spouses or in their newfound relationship with each other.  Adding another layer of obstruction is how much the two stand out in these scenes while their spouses are never completely seen, instead being occasionally heard talking or are partially viewed.  Being a stylistic choice by Wong, it is up to viewer to figure out why he does not want these characters, who have a large influence on the plot, to be seen.

An explanation for these interesting choices in style could relate to another of the film’s themes, memory.  It is stated in the film that as time passes, Mr. Chow does recall the events as clearly as he once did.  This could mean that the reason why the shots are cramped and some events are not clearly seen is because it is a visual representation of the idea of having an inaccurate memory.  It may be that the events the viewer sees are the events that Mr. Chow remembers clearly with the main characters standing out because he remembers himself and Mrs. Chan more fondly.  While this is only one way to interpret the film, the theme of memory can be found throughout the film, mostly toward the end.  In the Mood for Love is an interesting story about a romantic relationship, but its most intriguing quality is how much it leaves the viewer to interpret for themselves.

 

References:

In the Mood for Love. Dir. Kar-wai Wong. Block 2 Pictures, Inc., 2000.

“In the Mood for Love.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.

In The Mood for Love

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In The Mood for Love (2000) examines the relationship of two next-door-neighbors brought together by their unfaithful spouses. The Chinese title of the film 花樣年華 means “the age of blossoms” and refers to transience of youth and a nostalgia for the past. In 2000, the film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The film is the second installment in Wong Kar-wai’s (sort of) trilogy with Days of Being Wild (1991) and 2046 (2004).

Set in 1960’s Hong Kong, Wong Kar-wai creates a world lush with nostalgia. Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) and Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) are always impeccably dressed and mannered. They are the glossy figures lifted from a Lucky Strike print ad. Yet despite their beauty, the main characters suffer from stifling loneliness. Although they live in an apartment teeming with people, they often eat alone. Both Chan and Chow’s spouses remain curiously absent from the film. The viewer only sees the back of Mrs. Chow’s head and hears Mr. Chan’s voice. Their absence becomes enhanced when we learn of Mr. Chan and Mrs. Chow’s affair.

Affairs, along with nostalgia, become repeated themes in the film. Wong Kar-wai seems fascinated by the simultaneously vivid and murky quality of memory. While the film drips with rich reds and sparkling golds, it often frames its characters in an unusual manner. Wong remembers the romantic panache of the 60s but also its societal constrictions. Mrs. Chan works as a secretary for a shipping company. Dressed in a stunning floral cheongsam, her delicate neck wrapped in fabric, she must arrange her boss’ dinners with both his wife and mistress. Mrs. Chan, a wife who has recently learned of her husband’s own infidelity, must aide in another man’s deceit.

In In The Mood for Love, Wong often pairs beauty with sadness, the shinning facade of nostalgia with its dark underbelly. In one scene, Maggie Cheung’s character leaves the neighborhood noodle shop and a mint green thermos swings in her manicured hands. The scene moves in slow motion, lingering on her figure as it ascends the stairs.  For a moment we are transfixed by her perfection. Then the camera shows the crumbling walls of the shop. We remember why Mrs. Chan eats alone each night. When the shot changes to Mr. Chow, we watch him eat dumplings, his dark hair slicked into place, but he too eats unaccompanied. On the surface, the viewer sees two attractive people, but inches below are two spouses abandoned by their other halves. When they walk past one another, the camera frames Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan in the decrepit corridor.

In The Mood for Love gives its viewers both beauty and substance. The cinematography and soundtrack overwhelm with their exceptionality. Wong awakens in his viewers a sense of nostalgia. We yearn for the polished sophistication of the 60s even if we never lived through it. We yearn for lovers never lost. In The Mood for Love moves slowly and deliberately, but the patient viewer is greatly rewarded.