In The Mood For Love

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE

7/10

Hua yang nian hua
HK/Fr 2000
dir & scr Wong Kar-Wai
cin Mark Lee Ping-Bin, Christopher Doyle
stars Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung
97 minutes

You may find In the Mood For Love a stunning, poetic, transcendent experience – if you can keep your eyes open. It’s a tentative romance between a pair of neighbours (Leung, Cheung) who find out their spouses are conducting (separate) affairs, and drift together, ever so slowly. Director Wong unobtrusively evokes a time and a place – Hong Kong, 1962 – but this a universal, timeless tale, perhaps even a fable.

It’s structured like a short story with on-screen text as prologue and epilogue and a couple of codas – the last set among the ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia some years after the main “action”. But his approach is cinematic rather than literary – carefully composed images, graceful pans and cuts, delicate touches of slow motion, all set to a precisely modulated soundtrack. Wong is clearly a terrifically skilled, confident, mature director.

But it all feels so maddeningly static, so aloof and impenetrable, and when newsreel footage of Charles De Gaulle suddenly cuts in during the Cambodia sequence, it feels like a slap in face. These characters seem to be otherwise floating in some kind of weird void. You can see what Wong is trying to do when he cuts from one scene to the next without a pause, though days or weeks must have passed, but it does make for an uninvolving – even baffling – viewing experience. It’s a closed, personal circuit, and you may have difficulty finding a way in. Perhaps the title is the clue – you have to be in the mood for In the Mood For Love.

by Neil Young
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