In the Mood for Love (2000)

Liasoning in Hong Kong in the 1960s

It is Hong Kong, 1962. Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) and Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) rent rooms right next to one-another. Coincidentally, their spouses begin an affair with one-another. It was that that began Mr. Chow’s friendship with Mrs. Chan. Little do they realize that it would be something far bigger than they can imagine.

In the Mood for Love (花样年华Huāyàng niánhuá) is part of an unofficial trilogy by Wong Kar-Wai, the other two being prequel Days of Being Wild (1991) and sequel 2046 (2004). Since the trilogy is informal, I was able to see In the Mood for Love just fine without having seen Days of Being Wild as their plots were independent of one-another.

I use the word “plot” rather loosely here as In the Mood for Love didn’t really have a story per se as it was following Leung and Cheung as their relationship grew. It started off with Mr. Chow asking Mrs. Chan to help him write martial arts stories for a newspaper. Needless to say, it led to them having an affair of their own while their spouses were off philandering.

Everything about the movie, from the storytelling to the actual scene composition, had an interesting style about it. The first third or so of the movie focuses on Leung’s and Cheung’s characters leading lonely lives, believing (or at least wanting to believe) their spouses are simply out of the country for business. Despite not having officially begun their relationship, their paths cross in interesting ways, like at the noodle shop that both frequent. What I found to be interesting was how Mrs. Chow and Mr. Chan never appear on-screen, despite how crucial they are to the cause of the story to begin with.

The scene assembly was where director Wong really got to show his stuff. Much of the movie took place in-doors where, with few exceptions, you never get to see the sky. What I really remember was how Wong contrasted the focus, really highlighting what he wanted to call the viewer’s attention to, whether it be a character’s face or a clock at a workplace.

In the Mood for Love had oodles of atmosphere. From the rundown, claustrophobic apartment building our two leads moved into to the luxurious, seemingly empty hotel in which they maintained their liaison, every location in the movie had a very distinct feel about it. I also have to hand it to the costume designers and make-up artists of the movie. The reason is because they made the beautiful Maggie Cheung really look as if she belonged in the scenes Wong was putting together. Wong basically appeared to have an uncanny intuition as to how to use his camera to capture movements (most of which are very, very slow).

Of course I cannot neglect to mention Michael Galasso’s tango theme for the movie. In the Mood for Love used only two major pieces for the soundtrack, but they always worked perfectly for the scenes as the subjects (even smoke coming out of a cigarette) appeared to tango to the music.

Admittedly, I found the ending of the movie to be slightly less than satisfying. Nonetheless, despite not having any sex scenes in it, In the Mood for Love is easily one of the sexiest movies I have ever seen, and it was only too perfect that Cornell Cinema decided to show this on Valentine’s Day weekend.

Score: 4/4