|In the Mood for Love
Hua yang nianhua
Hong Kong, 2000
director: Wong Kar-wai
screenplay: Wong Kar-wai
cinematography: Mark Lee Ping-bin, Chris Doyle
editor: William Chang, Wong Ming-lam
design: William Chang
music: Mike Galasso
producer: Wong Kar-wai
production co.: Block 2 Pictures
Official website (English & Chinese)
Maggie Cheung Man-yuk ... Li-chun
Tony Leung Chiu-wai ... Chau
Siu Ping-lam ... Ah Ping
Rebecca Poon ... Mrs. Suen
Lai Chen ... Mr. Ho
Reviewed by Shelly Kraicer in Cinema Scope, issue no. 5: Winter, 2000.
An excerpt from the full review:
Time Blossoms, Time Fades
This year's festival circuit sees the appearance of three Chinese-language masterpieces, one from each from each of the three Chinese-speaking territories: Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love from Hong Kong; Jia Zhangke's Platform from mainland China and Edward Yang's Yi Yi from Taiwan. Not since 1994 (a year that featured Vive l'Amour, Chungking Express, Ashes of Time, Ermo, and To Live!) have Chinese film masterpieces been so strikingly central to the international art film scene.
First among these is Wong Kar-wai's best film since 1994. If Fallen Angels and Happy Together are the master's mannerist exercises in stylistic refinement and intensification, In the Mood for Love is a departure; a heartaching, eye-bewitching masterwork that stakes out new ground. It might even signal the beginning of what will some day be called Wong Kar-wai's "middle period."
There is much that is new in In the Mood and much that looks back to Wong's earlier films. Narrative structure, though present, seems to figure less and less. Here, Mr. Chow (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) and Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung Man-yuk) move into neighbouring apartments in Hong Kong on the same day in 1962. Through frequent encounters in tight hallways, claustrophobic staircases and rain-soaked alleyways, they grow closer, soon realizing that their respective spouses are carrying on an affair with each other. We hear the spouses, but never see more than the backs of their heads.
After Chow and Chan make their discovery, everything changes, but everything stays the same. Oblique conversations gain in intensity, but nothing can be said to "happen." Chan is trapped by an all-night mahjong party in Chow's tiny bedroom, but they only talk. They meet for dinners. They rehearse conversations in which they play each other's spouses, to practice how Chan will confront her husband about his infidelity. Though role-playing affords them the only moments of physical flirtation they allow themselves, their lives entwine. Chow, a journalist, starts to write a martial arts novel, and moves to a hotel room. He enlists Chan to help him with his writing. Their intimacy is refracted through shared fantasy: this time through jointly imagining Chow's novel. Chow takes a new job in Singapore and leaves Hong Kong. A series of epilogues bring the story forward, first to 1963, then to 1966.
But this is not a film that tells a story. It shows a way of life, and reconstructs a set of memories: memories of Wong Kar-wai's own youth in early 60s Hong Kong; memories of Wong's parents' life in Shanghai, filtered through a Hong Kong that revived Shanghai's transplanted urbanity after 1949 (and reconstructed in present-day Thailand); memories of the characters, as they might look back from the epilogues through memory's haze at a reconstructed, romanticized and elliptically conjured past.
The full review from Cinema Scope is online, here.
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