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In the Mood for Love (2000)

February 8, 2010

8/10 Healing Processes

A fascinating take on getting two-timed by your spouse.

In the Mood for Love is about two couples in Hong Kong that move in next door to each other on the same day. Husband (A) works late hours and never gets to see his wife (A). Wife (B) also works late hours and never gets to see her husband (B). Being that these kinds of things are never good for relationships, husband (A) and wife (B) eventually use their detective skills to find out that that wife (A) is having an affair with husband (B) behind their backs, probably because their schedules match up. The two night owls form a bond in light of the said discovery and try to figure out where to go from here.

Sorry if that was more confusing than it needed to be, been racking my brain for the past day about the best way to word it. Point is that their spouses are cheating on them.


Didn’t hear about this movie until recently after perusing some of my fellow bloggers’ “BEST MOVIE OF THE DECADE” lists and found this one nabbing some top spots. So thanks to the wonders of modern technology that allow me to stream Netflix through my PS3, I got on this one stat.

Judging by its Skinemax title and the grope-a-thon poster, I went into this movie expecting things to start getting hot and heavy pretty damn fast. To my surprise, In the Mood for Love is not not the Chinese predecessor to Y tu mama tambien that I thought it would be, but is instead an incredibly insightful and refreshingly different view on a premise that’s old hat by now.

What sets it apart is writer/director Wong Kar-Wai. I love watching movies where you can just feel how personal it is for the director, that this movie is their baby and they are thoroughly involved in every step of the process. I really got that in Kar-Wai’s direction here and it’s something you don’t see a lot in movies.

For subject matter that’s typically handled as emotionally explosive, the tone of the story here is very, very subtle for a change. Through its characters and the way they go about their lives in dealing with their loved ones’ infidelities, the stroke of brilliance on Kar-Wai’s behalf is that he doesn’t let his characters fall into the people we expect them to be. Instead of having them freak out, start bawling like ninnies or have them go at it like jack rabbits to get even, they make a conscious effort to be the opposite of the people who hurt them and get over their pain and anger the right way.

A lot of writers and directors would probably use this story line as a shouting match showcase, but I quickly respected these two characters a lot more because they were morally sound and they weren’t melodramatic stereotypes. Folks in Hollywood could learn a thing or two from Kar-Wai in this regard.

At times it can be a little too subtle where you might just miss a huge plot development because you weren’t paying close enough attention or weren’t getting the miniscule hints that are dropped by the characters along the way, but I actually really liked that aspect, too. The reveals end up carrying a lot more weight when you figure them out on your own.

And from a visual standpoint, this baby sucks you in. The colors pop, everyone looks cool as hell like they’re all employed by Sterling Cooper‘s China branch, and there’s just an air of beauty in how Kar-Wai continually focuses on the littlest of details that most would overlook without thinking twice. Straight up gorgeous.

The acting from Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung is also wonderful and strong without being overpowering. Really complements the overall vibe this movie has going for it.

In the Mood for Love might be a little slow and inaccessible if you’re looking for a more predictable interpretation of this story (not sure those are the words I’m looking for, but hopefully you get what I’m saying), but it is an original. Then again, I don’t know you and you may very well be as impressed with this as I was. Very poignant, very honest, very good, I need to see more stuff by this guy.

(NOTE: Somehow this thing got posted before I was done writing it, so sorry about that and my apologies to anyone who’s comments accidentally got deleted when I trashed the first copy, didn’t know that was gonna happen. Freakin’ WordPress…)

8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2010 6:38 pm

    Probably my favorite film from this director. I never got the overwhelming love for him until I saw this film. So beautifully understated and visually tantalizing that I couldn’t help but fall in love with it.

    It’s easily among my favorites of the decade.

  2. March 16, 2010 8:50 am

    Easily my favorite from Wai, a brilliant and moody film that I seriously considered putting ahead of Shawshank in my top spot of all time, but decided I needed to hold off on doing anything like that until after a few more viewings.

  3. April 30, 2010 12:29 pm

    You should also watch the kind-of sequel that Wong Kar-Wai made called “2046” if you liked this. I liked it better than In the Mood for Love.

    • April 30, 2010 12:40 pm

      Yeah, that’s definitely on the list. I actually have Chungking Express waiting for me at home from Netflix and I’m really looking forward to that. Really digging Kar-Wai at the moment.

      • April 30, 2010 5:05 pm

        Cool, I’ll be interested in your thoughts on Chungking Express. I haven’t seen it in about 10 years, so I don’t remember too much, but I remember it being good. Did you know that he doesn’t shoot with a script? Just basic ideas and a framework. I don’t know if he still does that, but all his older movies were done that way.

    • May 3, 2010 4:50 pm

      I watched “2046” first and didn’t really like it. Maybe not having seen the first film I’ll like it more.

  4. April 13, 2011 5:09 pm

    Hi there,
    I just found your review and linked to it in the body of my review. I really liked the things you said about the movie. I don’t think enough about the director. I usually focus on the actors and the characters they create, but the director definitely has so much power over the story. I agree that the mastery over the material is excellent. Here’s my review if you want to read it.

    • May 2, 2011 4:44 pm

      Haha. I pretty much wrote the whole darn thing about Kar-Wai, but looking back on it now, I’m sure this is one of those things that could warrant a thesis. Thanks for the heads up and thanks for the link. Good stuff.

      And thanks for visiting!

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