‘He remembers those vanished years…’
Wong Kar-wai is a director who I’ve always felt was a little style over substance. Someone in the vein of Baz Luhrmann or Tim Burton. I enjoyed Chungking Express sure, but I never really understood the cult around it. The Grandmaster was the other film of his I’d seen before this one and that also flatters to deceive. There are no such issues with In the Mood for Love. Here, Wong scales back on the cheap tricks and gimmicks to create something of real value…
A man (Tony Leung) and a woman (Maggie Cheung) both suspect their spouses of having an affair. In discussing this possibility together, the two neighbours must suppress the feelings they are developing for each other.
Hitchcock looms large over In the Mood for Love. As does Lost in Translation. As with the latter film, I admired Wong’s most acclaimed film from afar without ever really falling in love with it. I will say that the film looks beautiful, bathed in primary colours that pop off the screen like a Wes Anderson movie. Leung, always excellent, is particularly good here, and Cheung matches him every step of the way. The pair of them provide a pair of subtle, understated performance with the longing and affection portrayed through almost imperceptible glances and body language. It is a film of restraint from a director not known for reigning it in.
I enjoyed In the Mood for Love, mainly for the performances and for how well made it is, but I still don’t really get Wong as a filmmaker. I will keep trying.