In the Mood for Love directed by Wong Kar-wai revolves around Chow Mo-Wan (played by Tony Leung) and Su Li-zhen (played by Maggie Cheung), two people who move into separate apartments in the same building on the same day with their respective partners.
However both Chow and Su begin to suspect that their spouses are having an affair with each other. We then follow their burgeoning relationship, their chance encounters and then their near misses, though they never go beyond a platonic friendship.
In the Mood For Love, with its story of platonic infidelity, feels like David Leans 1945 classic
melodrama A Brief Encounter. However the twist here is that the story is being told by the people who remained faithful. The audience is still aware of the affair story going on, but it is placed in the background, due to the audience never seeing the faces of the adulterous pair, but hear phone conversations and see the backs of their heads.
What makes the film truly interesting is the cinematography. Shot by Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping Bin, each frame seems to drip with an exotic old time texture. There seems to be a tension in the film, on the one hand you have visually appealing and filmic shots that are drenched in atmospheric lighting and sensual colours, and the very unfilmic quality of the story of a relationship leading nowhere, while a far more typical narrative is occurring on the other side of the wall.
The shot composition gives the impression that the audience is peeping in on the private lives of our main characters. Spaces in the film are constricted which gives more credence to the fact that this is a private narrative. Even when outside or in public the mise-en-scene seems to restrict the space that Su and Chow occupy. Furthermore the audience sees action takes place through windows, at the other end of corridors or allies and on the other side of door frames that go further to show how small and private the spaces our main characters occupy. This not only adds to their growing closeness to each other, but also hints at a loneliness as well. We rarely see any other characters other than Chow or Su, and as already mentioned we never see their spouses either which perhaps gives an insight into the distance that exists in their marriages and other relationships.
The film takes on an almost self-reflexive quality reminiscent of the French New Wave
films of the 1960’s which is amplified by the way the film plays with time. Kar-wai interjects the narrative with slow-motion sequences makes the audience aware of the film and their relationship to it, namely that of a viewer, a voyeur watching the peoples private stories, both good and bad.
Credits and Stats
Directed by Wong Kar-wai
Produced by Wong Kar-wai
Written by Wong Kar-wai
Starring Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung
Music by Michael Galasso and Shigeru Umebayashi
Cinematography Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping Bin
Edited by William Chang
Distributed by USA Films (US)
Release Dates 29 September 2000
Running Time 98 Minutes
Country Hong Kong
Language Cantonese, Shanghainese and French
Box Office $12,854,953