Monday, August 3, 2009

In the Mood for Love

In the Mood for Love is my favorite Wong Kar Wai film and one of my favorite films of all time.

A lot of the times with Wong Kar Wai films, I feel like I'm just watching his films for aesthetic purposely. The images are hypnotic, voluptuous, and sumptuous. Every frame can be a still photos hung in the MoMA and/or the Guggenheim. But sometimes the stories themselves are not nearly as spellbinding probably because the stories get lost in the pace of the films. One such example is probably
Happy Together; I just felt the same scenes and events kept repeating which stalled the film from progressing. But ITMFL is not one of these Wong Kar Wai films.

ITMFL has a moving story line: Two neighbors, played by Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung, both have unfaithful spouses who go on frequent business trips. Being left alone, the two builds a strong and dignified platonic relationship even though romantic feelings broods beneath the surface. The reason for their platonic love is that they do not want to become hypocrites, like their spouses. They provide company to each other, eat together, and even help one another with their jobs.

In addition to this story line, the film is made even more beautiful with the visuals. Maggie Cheung changes her outfits, which is always a cheongsam, every few minutes throughout the film to signify the passage of time but also the repetitive continuation of her daily life. For example, within a five minute segment, she might wear a white cheongsam in the morning then a red cheongsam at night. Even though not much time has passed, the second half of the segment might have taken place a day after or a week after the first half which explains the change in outfits.

The most memorable moments of this masterpiece are when Cheung descend down a dimly lit stair to buy dinner while crossing path with Leung. This event is repeated two to three times in the film all with different variations and speeds. One night, she walks in the rain to buy dinner. One night, she walks by and greets Leung. One night, she misses Leung just by a few moments. Wong adds even more sexual tension and emotions by slowing down the time of one of these sections.

Music, of course, is another key element of Wong's film. Shigeru Umebayashi's Yumeij's Theme is used liberally throughout the film and I cannot get enough of it. The mood and tempo are completely in line with the feel and pace of the film.

ITMFL is so exquisite but with the perfect balance of somberness, tension, and happiness. The story is bittersweet, and the aesthetic is beyond what any other films that I have watched have achieved.


1minutefilmreview said...

Nice. One of our favorites too.

Alex Lai said...

It's truly a masterpiece of signature aesthetics and engaging storyline.