Friday, May 29, 2009

in the mood for love

our glorious years have passed like flowers...

hong kong, the early sixties. mrs su (maggie cheung) and her husband move into the spare room in mrs suen's (rebecca pan) apartment. mr chow (tony leung) and his wife move into a spare room in the next-door apartment. mrs su works long hours, she's a secretary for a shipping company, and her husband frequently makes long trips to japan on business. mr chow works similarly late hours' as an editor for a newspaper, whilst his wife works even later into the night.

with lives such as these, mrs su and mr chow find themselves bumping into each other at late night eateries, as well as when they're making their way in and out of their building, and a neighbourly friendship begins to develop, spurred on by their shared interest in martial arts serials. it isn't long, however, before the frequent absences of both mr su and mrs chow are revealed as more than coincidental: they're having an affair.

mrs su and mr chow's friendship continues to develop as they play out likely scenarios of their spouses burgeoning to infidelity and how they may choose to confront them. all the while, their own relationship develops; but, always in their thoughts, is a conviction that they will not pursue an illicit entanglement of their own...

this is a film that i've loved since i first saw it a long while ago. so, when i found out that it was screening in the newly restored howard assembly room (at opera north / leeds grand theatre), i was there in a flash. the venue is rather lovely and definitely a nice place to watch something. the film, as always, was great.

the film is a real gem: a minimalistic portrait of the moments that occur between two people who are falling in love. it is said that a more defined narrative was sliced from the film during editing; but, regardless of whether this is true, the intensity and intimacy created by having almost every frame focussed on the interaction between its two central characters, either together or apart and thinking about each other, is incredibly powerful.

wong's pacing is excellent: despite the film garnering criticism for its (perceived) languid nature, last night, the ninety-eight minutes simply flew by. as performers, and an on screen pairing, maggie cheung and tony leung are completely engaging. even though this film was made after maggie cheung had already begun to take on fewer and fewer roles, her talent, grace and beauty are as evident as they ever have been. coiffured and wearing a stunning selection of dresses, she seems to almost glide through the film, managing to convey internal dialogues and thoughts through small movements and looks. tony leung, too, suits the role perfectly; looking great in a haze of smoke and managing to convey a sensitivity and vulnerability, with a presence which makes him a believable object of desire, in the eyes of mr su.

so much credit needs giving to wong and michael galasso for the selection (and composition) of the music to which cheung and leung's movement is, seemingly, choreographed to. it is one of my favourite soundtracks and still gets frequent airtime in my house. much praise should also go william chang who, as artistic director, costume designer and editor (no less...), plays a huge part in creating the visual beauty which christopher doyle and mark lee capture on film with aplomb. by 'in the mood for love' doyle seems to have managed to reign in a lot of his jauntier camera trickery and, along with lee, gives more emphasis to the lighting and composition, which, for me, makes this one of his strongest works.

great stuff. maybe it's time to go and watch '2046' again...

the dvd is £7.99 from

1 comment:

supreme nothing said...

I think Chungking Express is still my personal favorite Wong Kar Wai film, but this movie is an absolute masterpiece!

I think when I first watched this I sat on the edge of my seat, because I wanted to see every single detail of this beautiful film. And Maggie Cheung is gorgeous of course!

Great review, I couldn't agree more!