In the Mood for Love (2000), Wong Kar-Wai
Chungking Express (1994), Fallen Angels (1995) and Happy Together (1997) are some of the iconic works of the filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai. It was 2000 when Wong Kar-Wai released the beautiful movie In the Mood for Love, also producing its screenplay.
He won the award for Best Director at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival with the movie Happy Together. Despite having been born in Shanghai, Kar-Wai went to live, when he was five years old, in Hong Kong with his parents.
Kar-Wai’s fascination with that city is reflected in his filmography in a very striking way. In the Mood for Love is no exception, since the plot takes place in the 60s Hong Kong, which was under British administration at the time, having become independent in 1997, bouncing back to Chinese sovereignty.
The narrative depicts the relationship between the journalist Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) and the secretary Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung). The actors are remarkable in how they infuse the characters with a love story that does not need great staging to display the obvious. The unique way through which they both embody the roles, using discrete expressions, gestures, furtive glances is amazingly seductive, unveiling a shared suffering by a repressed love. The subtlety as “lovers” is deeply immersive.
Both protagonists are married, and their respective spouses are constantly cheating. Despite never appearing on camera, Kar-Wai keeps giving clues that allude to that. Nevertheless, there is this immense restlessness in how Chow Mo-wan and Su Li-zhen look forward to consummating their passion in a context in line with their adventures and misadventures, since the two are living in an overcrowded building in Hong Kong, a city that begins to show signs of economic development. Kar-Wai explores, with outstanding mastery, the isolation and loneliness that these two characters are confined to, in counterpoint with the chaos of large metropolises.
With a breath-taking soundtrack, one of the distinguishing traits of Kar-Wai’s films, In the Mood for Love this aspect assumes, yet again, a decisive role in the creation of an intimate atmosphere. Nat King Cole is one of the voices singing lullabies, and Shigeru Umebayashi is a mandatory reference, a Japanese composer, author of the original theme that echoes throughout the movie, resulting in an explosion of unspeakable emotions.
Christopher Doyle’s cinematography is crucial when it comes to building a borderline poetic composition… the camera captures the scenes in slow motion, using warm colours, especially red, an analogy to both love and passion. Kar-Wai does not miss any detail. The wardrobe is carefully thought, managing to singularly recreate the environment of Hong Kong’s society. The scenarios are absolutely stunning. This plethora of elements are combined sublimely, creating a romantic atmosphere of rare beauty.
Kar-Wai explores the essence of love, a recurrent theme in his cinematographic work, as a sort of slow-step dance, without any juggling, where art is what stands out the most.
In the Mood for Love is a love story, a distressed cry of the soul, in which the magic of the picture reaches an almost extrasensory dimension.