In 1960s' Hong Kong, journalist Chow Mo-wang and secretary Su Li-zhen, who are neighbors, find out that their spouses are cheating on them and begin to spend more time together. However, even falling in love with each other, they do not dare to start a relationship. A rare picture with a genuinely impeccable reputation, In the Mood for Love earned Tony Leung the Best Actor Award in Cannes (2000) and ranked second on the BBC's The 100 Best Films of the 21st Century (2016), following a poll of international film critics.
Like all Wong Kar-wai films, In the Mood for Love is primarily an exploration of time. The visual leitmotif is set by the clock hanging in Su’s office and her tight-fitting, high-necked dresses changing from scene to scene. While creating the look of a stunningly beautiful woman, literally shackled hand and foot, qipaos with floral prints illustrate the passage of unforgiving time, alluding to the movie’s original title, Flowery Years. This solution, invented together with production designer William Chan, underlines how much easier it is for Kar-wai’s characters to redirect feelings from subjects to objects, not only dramatic dresses but also more prosaic canned pineapples (Chungking Express) or a lamp depicting waterfall (Happy Together).
Unlike his other films, In the Mood for Love offers an amazingly structured plot and accurate imagery, which paradoxically become the director’s field of experimentation. The protagonists’ “proper,” almost perverse behavior is also unusual. The invisible sparks flying at a slow speed between Su and Chow are almost tangible—and it is thanks to them that one can truly feel the trauma inflicted on both by betrayal, having paralyzed them and deprived them of the chance to be together. Composed almost entirely of scenes featuring the main characters, their spouses’ faces never shown on camera, this kind of intimacy cost two years of filming, almost bringing Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung to a nervous breakdown, even though both recognized it as their main career achievement. Kar-wai’s long-serving cinematographer Christopher Doyle left the project after the protracted shoot. He was replaced by another master, Mark Lee Ping-Bing, known for his collaboration with Hou Hsiao-hsien. The editing of “the most difficult film of his career” was finished on the morning of its Cannes premiere.
The film will be screened in Cantonese and Shanghainese with Russian subtitles.
In the Mood for Love
Dir. Wong Kar-wai
Hong Kong, China, 2000. 98 min. 18+