In the mood for love

In the mood for love | Trailer of the 20th anniversary restoration

I watched Wong Par-Wai’s In the mood for love a couple of nights ago on the Criterion channel. The 2000 romantic-drama is a co-production between Hong Kong and France, it portrays a man (Tony Leung) and a woman (Maggie Cheung) whose spouses have an affair and who slowly develop feelings for each other.

The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 20 May 2000, to critical acclaim and a nomination for the Palme d’Or; Leung won Best Actor (the first Hong Kong actor to win the award). It is often listed as one of the greatest films of all time and one of the major works of Asian cinema. In a 2016 survey by the BBC, it was voted the second-best film of the 21st century by 177 film critics from around the world. (Source)

It is indeed a beautiful and poetic movie. I loved how there was always something hidden in the shots when the protagonists were together. As if we (the viewers) were hiding somewhere to watch them ; in a wardrobe, through a window, a reflection of a mirror, the view points are extremely interesting and put emphasis on the fact that they are trying to hide their feelings. I also loved the colors, how the red (a pure passionate red) was very often dominant. Loved the soundtrack too. On a different note, I also thought the woman was stunning, always beautifully dressed, and I wished I could own and wear dresses like hers (always very floral, and the collars, high and rigid… just lovely).

Their relationship is a beautiful one ; pure, sincere, respectful, charged (but contained), innocent and… sad. The movie is slow paced, soft and lyrical, yet the feelings the protagonists experience are fiery and ardent. The contrast is interesting, nothing shows on the surface, all is kept hidden inside, like a secret whispered in a tree trunk.

The film’s original Chinese title, meaning “the age of blossoms” or “the flowery years” – a Chinese metaphor for the fleeting time of youth, beauty and love – derives from a song of the same name by Zhou Xuan from a 1946 film. The English title derives from the song “I’m in the Mood for Love”. Director Wong had planned to name the film Secrets until listening to the song late in post-production.

In the end the movie got me thinking the eternal unanswerable question : what is life about, what is the point of our existence? Things come and go, influenced by the decisions you take or don’t take, and as you get older, some things remain unforgettable, they belong to the past and you are unsure what is left to look up to.

The movie starts with this inter title : “It is a restless moment. She has kept her head lowered… to give him a chance to come closer. But he could not, for lack of courage. She turns and walks away. “

And it ends with this one : “He remembers those vanished years. As though looking through a dusty window pane, the past is something he could see, but not touch. And everything he sees is blurred and indistinct.”

Very poetic, like the movie, very much worth a watch if you are In the mood for love, and not the Hollywood kind.

Apparently the film is the second part of an informal trilogy, alongside Days of Being Wild and 2046, so I’ll have to watch these two now. If anyone has seen one of them, I would love to hear your comments about it.

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