'In the Mood for Love' (2000) 500 Word DVD Review

May 11, 2009 § Leave a comment

In the Mood for Love, or ‘Fa yeung nin wa’, is director Wong Kar-wai’s second film in a loose trilogy, concerning the two principal characters of Chow Mo-Wan (Tony Leung) and So Lai-zhe (Maggie Cheung). The first film, Days of Being Wild, partly focuses on So Lai-zhe’s character, where as the third film, 2046, is a strange mix of sci-fi and love story, and which centres on the Chow Mo-Wan character. As such, In the Mood for Love acts as the centre point for both characters; it is the focal point for these two individuals, and, arguably, acts as the most important guiding chapter in their lives.

In this film, Chow Mo-Wan is a journalist and So Lai-zhe, a secretary. They both live in the same apartment building — and coincidentally, both moved in at the same time as each other. Their spouses work late hours, and so, both Mo-Wan and Lai-zhe do not see them for lengths at a time. Over time, certain clues give rise to suspicions that both Chow Mo-Wan’s wife and So Lai-zhe’s husband are having affairs, and that they are having them with each other. United by their mutual desolation, Mo-Wan and So Lai-zhe strike up an intimate friendship, which eventually blossoms into something more…

Sometimes what is not spoken, speaks louder than what is. This seems to be the running mantra of Wong Kar-wai’s directorial style, and as such, this film is very much an acquired taste. It is very slow, subtle, quiet and subdued. Culturally, it is also very different from what a Western audience might be accustomed to. The relationship between Mo-Wan and Lai-zhe is a passionate one, but it is reserved and repressed; oppressed, by society. It is a simple love story between two lonely people, who are caught between their feelings for one another and their moral duties, to their spouses, with whom they still feel bound to.

One’s enjoyment of the film is clearly based in whether you dig the director’s style: a shot lingers as Mo-Wan looks at himself in the mirror; Lai-zhe is captured in slow-motion as she elegantly steps down an alley to collect some noodles to take home. These scenes are very beautiful and capture the broody, lonely world these characters occupy, but they may strike others as overly-indulgent and unbearably lethargic.

In the Mood for Love is about capturing a feeling, a mood, not through dialogue, but through glances and looks. Similar to 2001, in that the lack of exposition is a conscious and salient omission, it requires patience on behalf of the viewer; it requires a willingness to open-up to this world and its characters, its ambience and its emotions. If you can do this, you will find In the Mood for Love a rewardingly sombre experience. Otherwise, it will be an hour-and-a-half wasted.

(471 words.)

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