In the Mood for Love

Movie Information

Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present In the Mood for Love at 8 p.m. Friday, May 13, at Phil Mechanic Studios (109 Roberts St., River Arts District, upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332,
Genre: Romance Drama
Director: Kar Wai Wong
Starring: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Lai Chin, Rebecca Pan
Rated: PG

Back in 2001, I wrote, “In the Mood for Love is virtually unique in that it is a film made up almost entirely of subtle touches and things not said, from which we are made to understand the feelings and motivations of its main characters—Chow Mo-Wan (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and Su Li-Zhen (Maggie Cheung). The two are neighbors who become attracted to each other by proximity, then attached to each other when they realize their respective spouses are having an affair with each other. Set in the overcrowded Hong Kong of 1962, the film is amazingly claustrophobic—the camera crowding in on the players at every opportunity (the film boasts almost no long-shots)—and is drenched in the dark, heavily saturated colors of a neo-noir, which to some degree In the Mood for Love actually is. Only here, the focus has changed. Where a standard noir would focus on the adulterous couple, Wong Kar-Wai’s film focuses on their spouses, who refuse to lower themselves to the level of their legal mates (‘For us to do the same thing would mean we are no better than they are’) despite the fact that they fall in love themselves.”

While I have no actual issue with that assessment, seeing it again—and seeing it after the director’s much underrated My Blueberry Nights (2007)—I think the film is actually better than my original ranking.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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5 thoughts on “In the Mood for Love

  1. JonathanBarnard

    A wonderful, beautiful film. No one evokes mood like Kar Wai Wong. And I’m hard pressed to think of a film that has made better use of color saturation.

    You’re closer, Ken, by giving it an extra half star. Maybe some day you’ll actually give a great Chinese-language film five of them.

  2. Ken Hanke

    You do realize that I don’t sit there and think, “Oh, this is in Chinese, so I can’t give it five stars,” I hope.

    And are you sure I never have?

  3. JonathanBarnard

    Of course I don’t think you’re penalizing films for being in Chinese. I just think that for some reason Chinese films–whether from Taiwan, Hong Kong or the mainland–don’t especially resonate with you.

    And I can’t say for certain that you haven’t given a Chinese-language film five stars. I just can’t recall any from the reviews of yours I remember: “Crouching Tiger,” “Eat Drink Man Woman,” “Lust Caution,” “The Hole,” “Hero,” “House of Flying Daggers,” and “Kung Fu Hustle,” in addition to “In the Mood for Love.”

  4. Ken Hanke

    I just think that for some reason Chinese films—whether from Taiwan, Hong Kong or the mainland—don’t especially resonate with you.

    I think that’s fair, though I might say “completely resonate” as opposed to “especially resonate,” since at least three — now four — of the films you list below got 4 1/2. That would seem to indicate a pretty high degree of resonating. (In fact, if I weren’t forced to use a star rating system, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a 4 1/2 and a 5.)

    Would The Wedding Banquet count? I’m not sure it’d get a 5, since I haven’t seen it in a good while, but it might.

  5. JonathanBarnard

    If I recall correctly, about 70% of the film’s dialogue is Mandarin, so yeah, I’d count it.

    By the way, the ones I think you short-changed by not giving fives are “In the Mood,” “Crouching Tiger,” and “Kung Fu Hustle.”

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