A film that plays on a certain kind of mood.
More than fifteen years gone since In The Mood For Love left its mark. The film by Wong Kar-Wai depicts what it suggests – the mood, taking us to a time evoking a sensuality that sprouted as a product of social stigma and repression.
The tale unfolds the delicate complexity of an ill-fated love; uncontrollable forces that can creep in, disarming our human rationale at any given moment. How convenient might it be for a man and woman to move in as next door neighbors, (whose spouses are having an affair with one another) is beside the truth of the story. But rather how the two protagonists Mr. Chow, a journalist (Tony Leung) and Mrs. Chan, a wife and secretary (Maggie Cheung) progress forward through their choice of actions. They come to depend emotionally on one another after discovering their awkward predicament.
The film is a masterpiece from writer-director Wong Kar-Wai. In true style of an auteur, he encompasses various elements of cinema in precise measure to tell a tale that speaks to us universally. The story perhaps seeks to examine marital relationships in the opulence of 1960s Hong Kong – with slim cigarettes and clouds of smoke puffed into the air to expunge the mind of suppressive thoughts. Mrs. Chan is always dressed impeccably with stiffly starched collared dresses, silhouetted and sleeveless, patterned in silk florals. A character even remarks how “her husband’s always away and she dresses like that to go out for noodles”. With close physical distance between the characters whose spouses we never see, the film throws light on the questions of loneliness and a quiet desperation that exists within its parameters. The irony is that the characters are lonely even in the confines of a crowded tenement with people living less than a yard from each other.
Heat and rain are used as effective devices to relieve the audience of the drawn out “when will they come together?”. The heat is also felt through the incandescent light in confined rooms. The music used to absolute efficiency at some points makes its entrance as a supporting character that like a force from another dimension, suspends time to pull the two characters closer to collide. The soundtrack “Yumegi’s Theme” by Shigeru Umebayashi and Michael Galasso sweeps across the screen complementing the slow motion of Mrs. Chan’s elegant strides as she walks past Mr. Chow through narrow corridors. Spanish music makes a befitting juxtapose to a Chinese film, unravelling the mischief of love. The voice of Nat King Cole singing, underscores the characters’ inner dialogue akin to wandering minstrels in Shakespeare’s plays.
Cinematography by Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping-Bing is a tour de force of storytelling. They make accessible the space to empathize with the characters as the camera moves unassumingly through the film. They let us traverse narrow passageways and intimate spaces without feeling like an intruder.
What Leung’s character says to Mrs Chan at a turning point in the film ‘I was curious to know how it started. Now I know’. This in essence may be where the film’s crux rests.
Photo copyright: Allstar/Cinetext/JET TONE PRODUCTION