In the Mood for Love (Kar Wai Wong, 2000)

Criticker.com predicted I’d give this a whopping score of 99/100.  Accurate prediction?  ….not so much 😛 .  It was more like low to mid 70s when all was said and done and I got through my first film by famed Chinese filmmaker Kar Wai Wong.  Some things I liked: the look, with the colors both extravagant and muted so that they stand out as utterly beautiful and moody but don’t stand out too much…that and the formal / beautiful outfits, the cigarette smoke, the muted lights and sparse but gorgeous sets…it all had a very neo-noir feel, which I always love, so points right there 🙂 .  Also, I liked how Kar Wai Wong emphasized the emptiness of our 2 heroes’ lives, how their equally dull lives inevitably draw them together when what would be the focus of a lesser movie, their spouses’ affair(s), is left entirely off-screen.  I liked how the inevitability of their falling for each other is slow and not obvious in any way, how they don’t consummate their attraction with a stock sex scene or something like any other movie would do (kind of the same idea as “Lost in Translation”).  Why can’t a man and a woman, simply two members of the opposite sex, simply be acquaintances or even good friends?  Why can’t they feel comfortable meeting freely to collaborate on a martial arts story?  Why must one hide in the other’s apartment while neighbors play cards or mahjongg or whatever the fuck it was to avoid suspicions?  Why do they eventually have to hide their meetings and make them covert to avoid those suspicions?  And maybe most importantly, is love inevitable given the simple circumstances of a spurned husband and a spurned wife living in adjoining apartments?  The focus on the mundanity of these two peoples’ lives and their socially unacceptable attempts to break from that mundanity is about as subdued as you can get, which makes the standout look of the film around them just as eerily mundane, making for quite a filmwatching experience.

And now what I didn’t like.  Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung are two of Asia’s most well-known actors, and for good reason.  Based on this one film, I can tell that they’re very capable and talented performers, and they’re two unbelievably good looking people.  So good looking, in fact, that I thought to put them both together in a film like this, as two everypeople living in a shitty apartment building, just wasn’t believable.  Two great-looking people wearing great-looking outfits with great-sounding vocal intonations waxing philosophic the way they do (and I actually liked the tone of a lot of the dialogue…not too cliche romantic, not too introspective or pretentious), they just stand out way too much.  Minor quibble, though, and I admit probably a silly one.  I don’t know shit about the Hong Kong celebrity scene, but I imagine it’d be the equivalent, to me, of having too much starpower in one movie and taking away from the believability factor, maybe.  Also, that music!  OK, it’d be ok maybe once or twice to go to that slow-mo and the depressing string music to emphasize emptiness or something like that as Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan pass each other coming out of the noodle store or something, but to grind everything to a halt like that at least 5 or 6 times for styles’ sake?  Doesn’t do it for me.  I want a character study without too many bells and whistles, and for me in a movie like this those costumes, the sets, and the gorgeous colors were “style” enough, so could’ve been left at that.  Oh, well.  Again, minor complaint in what was a pretty damn good movie.  Not quite a 99/100, but enough to get me to see more by Kar Wai Wong, so can’t complain 🙂 .

7.5/10

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