In The Mood For Love (2000)

Synopsis: Two neighbors, a woman and a man, form a strong bond after both suspect extramarital activities of their spouses. However, they agree to keep their bond platonic so as not to commit similar wrongs.

For more info and to watch the trailer, click here:

Who chose it: Both of us

Why we chose it: We can only assume because we saw it on CineFix videos… like thirty of them.

Leah’s Review:

Being the cinema buffs that we are, Brent and I watch a lot of videos from various YouTube channels that discuss film. “In The Mood For Love” has been featured more than once on several of these videos. This definitely peaked my interest in the movie I had previously never heard of before and I was instantly struck with how beautiful the featured shots from the film were. It doesn’t hurt that the movie has an interesting plot either.

What “In The Mood For Love” does particularly well is capturing the feelings of loneliness and isolation that the main characters, Su Li-zhen Chan and Chow Mo-wan, feel throughout the film. It’s able to do this in obvious ways through simple exposition: we quickly find out that both characters’ spouses spend most of their time at work and later learn (along with the characters) that their spouses are also having an affair. But the film also shows the emotions that the characters experience without saying anything at all. Use of slow-motion, for instance, displays the long, agonizing heartbreak and the wait for some kind of resolution to occur. A device used throughout the film shows Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow each walking from their apartment to the noodle shop night after night. Something about this solitary trek coupled with the beautiful score of the film perfectly encapsulates the feeling of utter aloneness.

Added to this, “In The Mood For Love” also chooses to never reveal the faces of Mr. Chan and Mrs. Chow (the spouses having an affair) to the audience. We often see them from the back or hear them speak, but we never once see their faces. This creates even more distance and isolation and helps us sympathize even more with the spouses left to deal with the aftermath.

One of the best elements of this film is undoubtedly its cinematography. The way that the scenes are shot have an almost “floating” element to them, as though we’re watching a carefully choreographed dance. We also become intimately familiar with the few set pieces used within the film (the apartment, the street where the characters often meet to talk, the noodle shop, etc.), which allows the audience to focus more on the relationship of the characters. I also really loved the use of color in this film with the contrast of bright vibrant colors against the dim, dark cityscape.

“In The Mood For Love” is a beautiful and tragic story told within a brilliant film. The relationship between Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow- which grows from a companionship. to a friendship, to something much more- keeps us rooting for their happiness despite their having become the very thing they despised about their spouses. By the end of the film, there is still much unspoken and unresolved- it’s not quite a satisfying conclusion. But overall, I enjoyed the storytelling and style of this film and would definitely say it’s worth a watch.

Brent’s Review:

In 1962, Hong Kong was overcrowded. Families would be stuffed into cramped apartments, often two or three families in a single flat. Enter Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan – two neighbors in a crowded apartment complex who otherwise could afford their own private living space (Mr. Chow is a reporter; Mrs. Chan is an executive assistant). Their roommates are eccentric in their own ways, one in particular who is a drunk and another who is obsessed with getting Mrs. Chan to “socialize.”

Chow & Chan begin to suspect something they struggle to admit to themselves, let alone speak aloud: their spouses are having an affair with one another. Meanwhile, Mrs. Chan & Mr. Chow settle for exchanging glances in the grimy stairwell that leads to-and-from the noodle stand while their spouses are conveniently out of town in the same location.

They are both quiet and their social situation is strained and abrasive. Given the circumstances, they are both drawn to the only other person who can sympathize: each other. They form a bond with one another. Both of them long for romance, but never at the same time. Ah love, how you are so interesting when unrequited!

Upon reflection, it is here that the film fell flat for me. In this story, the two lovers are victims of personal tragedy and thrust together out of circumstance. Another circumstance – the time period and their claustrophobic living quarters – forces them to remain secretive, consigning their love to shadowy alleys and cramped corridors. Yet, the setup and punchline of this film seem to exist in different worlds. Wouldn’t it be more interesting if they longed for each other before they learned of their spouses infidelities, but then chose not to act on it anyway? What if one of them confronted their spouse and left them while the other confronted their spouse and forgave them? Both of these sound like far more interesting films to me… alas.

Enough of my complaining about the narrative; the real reason I wanted to see this movie was Kar Wai Wong’s direction. It did not disappoint. I was dazzled by his ability to find a beautiful shot in the midst of drab, cramped corridors. His leitmotif of the heavy orchestral music over a seemingly innocuous act (in slow motion) was magnificent. And Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung’s turns in the lead roles were impeccable.

So what gives? In romance dramas, I will be moved only so far as I care about the characters. I’ll end with a brief comparison. Earlier this year, we saw the film “Hero”, in which Cheung & Leung play romantic partners – this time, with swords! Anyway, their love in that film is also unrequited. For what it’s worth, I was moved by “Hero”. Take it or leave it.

As a brief side note, we watched this film with a free trial to the streaming service Filmstruck, which specializes in hard-to-find films. Check it out if you want to find some hidden gems.

Up next: With the oldest release date on our list, “City Lights” features the comical stylings of Charlie Chaplin in a classic, black-and-white, silent film setting. 

Peace out, kids.


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