Wong Kar-Wai’s “In the Mood for Love”

Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love is essentially  one of the most restrained love stories ever put to film.  The plot is fairly simple – two neighbors, Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chana, meet and spend time together while their spouses have an affair – but it’s that simplicity that helps the film work so well. There’s a yearning that’s strong and palpable. It’s ridiculously exquisite and as smooth as a fine wine. The film is one that ought not to be missed. If you’ve not seen it before, I urge you to correct that as soon as you possibly can.

For some, the film may feel lazy as it wanders and meanders towards its end. But within this hazy feeling, there’s a tightly constructed film, one in which not one second of film feels wasted. There’s nothing here that feels extraneous and it’s so incredibly easy to slip away into 1960s Hong Kong. Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung performances as Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan are  pitch-perfect and nuanced, restrained and yet expansive. These characters are two hurt, lonely people, grasping for understanding, companionship and compassion.

The audience never sees the faces of their cheating spouses – all we get are their voices and backs . Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan come, in a sense, to stand in for their spouses, the intimacy of their relationship mirroring the affair that brought them together. They are, themselves, aware of this – they play a game in which they pretend to be their spouses, acting out what they think happened between the two. At first, it’s not clear to the audience precisely what they’re doing – when Mrs. Chan asks Mr. Chow if he has a mistress and he responds in the affirmative, her anger and sadness is palpable and you feel as shocked as she does. It turns out they they are just playing pretend, trying to parse out how their spouses started their affair. It never escapes the audience’s notice, however, that it does feel as though Mr. Chan is his mistress. The relationship and love that grow between the two furthers this affect; one that’s all the more heartbreaking when they deny themselves what they have come to want.

Additionally, In the Mood for Love is an extraordinarily beautiful film; breathtaking in its scope. The cinematography is lush and the color palette is vibrant and full of life, hope and energy, which is in direct contrast to the characters themselves. Also, slow motion, which I find to very often be the scourge of film, is used to great effect in In the Mood for Love.  The effect renders the character’s motions as heavy and with meaning, even when doing something a simple as walking down a street or staring out a window. The moments feel weighty, though they aren’t framed as such by the narrative. These are the everyday routines and pieces of these character’s life s and significant in ways one typically would not consider them to be. But of course, lives are made of these small, insignificant moments, and In The Mood for Love captures that brilliantly. It feels as though the characters are drifting through their lives, which, of course, they are. And the films narrow hallways and intimate settings are the perfect visual stand in for the narrative’s secrets and the usage of mirrors and reflective surfaces reflect each character’s loneliness to the audience and back to themselves.

This will not be a film everyone will enjoy, but it ought to be a film that everyone should watch. I genuinely feel that In the Mood for Love should be required viewing. It’s not just a film; it’s an experience. It’s one I hope everyone will enjoy, but if not enjoy, then at least appreciate. If you get a chance to see this film – preferably, on the big screen, if you can – don’t miss it. It’s a feast for the eyes, the mind and heart.

If you’re interested, you can find In The Mood For Love at AmazonBarnes and Noble and the City of Richmond Public Library

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An Introduction

So, I’m Erica and – during my time with the Virginia Film Office, our fearless leader thought that I ought to put my film geekiness to good use and start a blog of sorts.

To give you the lowdown on me, I studied at New York University and graduated in 2008 with a BA in Cinema Studies. Basically, I didn’t study production, but rather the history, theory and criticism of cinema. Studying a movie like you’d study a book is probably fairly boring to some people, but not to me! I love ripping a film apart, examining it, and trying to stick it back together.

Something else about me: I have loved movies for the vast majority of my life.

Originally, I’m from a small, rural county in Virginia and the outside world didn’t penetrate often. Film was the way I learned about the world – I experienced different places, faces and beliefs through film.

While I’m a firm believer in auteur theory, I’m also a believer that different people will experience films in different ways based on the experiences they have and the people they are. So, when I talk about films, I’m often going to talk about the way I’ve experienced them, the way I see them, what I feel I’ve learned from them, rather than what the filmmaker has gone on record as saying what it’s about. I’ll talk about that too, of course!

This blog will discuss the films I genuinely believe everyone – everyone – should see. Film geeks and laymen alike.  I’ll talk about the films that inspired me, energized me and films I feel as though my life would be incomplete without. Some will be old, some will be new, some will be foreign and some will be produced right here in the good ol’ US of A. I’ll also do my best to clue you in on where you can find the movies I talk about.

So, read the blog, watch the movies and hopefully, enjoy.

First up will be Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood For Love.