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IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
2000 - Wong Kar Wai
Hong Kong / France
27
Opening Shot

"It is a restless moment. She has kept her head lowered to give him a chance to come closer but he could not, for lack of courage. She turns and walks away.".... and so begins Wong Kar-Wai's masterpiece.

The Film

Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood For Love is a beautifully poetic, artistic, thoughtful, and emotionally involving film that takes nothing for granted as it gradually builds to get the viewer "in the mood" of it's ill-fated relationship. The film brilliantly examines the emotions of the relationship between two lost souls, their everyday lives and events, the longing and connection that ties them together, as well as societies restraints which keep them apart. In the Mood for Love's cinematography is nothing short of remarkable. Every shot is beautifully framed and gorgeously composed of strong colors blended with dark portions to add both meaning and the claustrophobic feel of 1960's Hong Kong. The images convey both a beauty and symbolic metaphor for the film (be it mirrors, curtains, outfits, etc) and the frame is often detailed in tight, compact shots to heighten the claustrophobia, and also express the emotional state of it's characters (who hold secrets within). The film is also very much a political one as both the characters hidden secrets and the story draw metaphoric parallels to Hong Kon and China politics. In many ways, In the Mood For Love is a very personal reflection for it's filmmaker who consciously detailed the period and even such metaphors as the hotel room number 2046 (which marks the last year of the 50-year period that China would allow Hong Kong own it's own). In a very symbolic way, In the Mood For Love represents both personal and emotional secrets and memories for Wong as well as the films characters Of course to simply define the relationship as a metaphoric one would be completely overlooking what is a deeply emotional story of connection and longing. Despite limited dialogue, Tony Leung and the radiant Maggie Cheung give (as usual) extraordinary performances through their delicate body language and isolated facial expressions. Not to go without mentioning is the excellent, repeated use of the film's breathtaking violin music and soundtrack, which gracefully flows throughout and adds depth to both the visual and emotional atmosphere. In the Mood For Love is a film that recalls the beauty of the French New Wave and of old-fashioned filmmaking (Douglas Sirk melodramas certainly come to mind in both expressive compositions and style, as well as the way Wong details loneliness and oppression of society standards as subtext), as the film ultimately represents the joy and wonder of filmmaking and cinema in it's purest artistic form: capturing feelings and emotions through expressive imagery and sound! Like great art, Wong undoubtedly leaves much to think about here, as very much of the film is left open (the husband and wife; the intimacy of the relationship; Su Li-zhen's child; the ending). Few films truly capture fate, destiny, connection, isolation, and above all the longing for love better then this stylish, poetic Wong masterpiece. In many ways this is the brilliant Hong Kong filmmaker's greatest achievement. I truly believe this to be one of the most perfect films ever made and any praise can still not justify it's transcendent and poetic beauty. This is a film to experience and to cherish.

The Filmmaker

Hong Kong's Wong Kar-Wai is one of my very favorite filmmakers of contemporary world cinema. A definitive master of poetic filmmaking, Wong's films are equally visionary works of originality, and joyous celebrations of past cinema. Wong is a definitive auteur. A filmmaker who's style and vision set him apart from not only contemporary filmmakers throughout the world, but specifically from Hong Kong cinema (who's most known for martial arts and action filmmakers such as Tsui Hark and John Woo). Born in Shanghai China in 1958, Wong immigrated to Hong Kong with his mother at an early age. His films very much reflect Hong Kong's relationship with Mainland China (even if done in subtle and metaphoric ways). He graduated from Hong Kong Polytechnic in 1980 and shortly afterwards began working in Hong Kong Television. During this time, Wong dropped out of art school and began writing screenplays (ironically he would abandon the traditional sense of script writing in his own films). In 1988 he made his feature filmmaking debut As Tears Go By, which was very successful in Hong Kong. The debut displayed an emerging auteur with a challenging perspective of filmmaking. As Tears Go By captured the essence of what every Wong film to follow has captured, and that is Wong's focus on feeling, mood and atmosphere. Wong is more interested in the philosophical aspects of the characters rather then the actual process. What helps propel this expression of feeling is Wong's breathtaking control of imagery and composition as well as sweeping pace and moody music. Wong understands the importance of an image and he effectively uses and stresses image as a source of expression and overall feeling. Of course there is a much more complex depth to the visual and emotional expression that far exceed the simple description of moody atmospheric feeling. Wong's films resonate a deep longing for human connection and a desperation for love and assurance. His films work almost like a continuous rhythm of one. One of the key films of his career is the second film Days of Being Wild, which represents the quintessential Wong film. Following a typical non-linear narrative the film is one of feeling, of loneliness, and of romantic longing. It takes place in an atmospheric and seemingly slowed-down world of Hong Kong during the 1960s and at the core lies Wong's definitive themes of time, memory, identity and longing for connection or meaning. Wong's third film (Chungking Express) became his most financially successful and remains one of his most exciting and endlessly watchable masterworks. The film focuses on two separate stories (and four individual characters) that are linked by their thematic center of the isolation and cycle of modern Hong Kong life. The film is again moody (heightened by Wong's trademark repetitive imagery and use of music- notably here is 'California Dreamin') but here in a way that is charming and stylish. It is essentially one of the great love stories of the decade. Wong's next release best defines his exhausting, unusual, and to his actors frustrating production habits. Like just about all of his films, Ashes of Time was shot without a traditional script and the entire production proved to be equally exhausting and costly (Wong actually made Chunking Express in-between production to "clear his head"). Wong's big break came with the 1997 release of his sixth film Happy Together. The film won Wong a Best Director award at the Cannes film festival. His follow-up film, 2000's In the Mood For Love would mark both a continuation and a change for Wong. Above all it marked his most personal achievement and is ultimately one of the very greatest films ever made. In the Mood For Love captures the essence of Wong's claustrophobic visual style expression as well as his themes of memory, longing, loss and identity. However, In the Mood for Love is Wong at his most personal, metaphoric, and political as the film represents the relationship of Hong Kong and Mainland China. Of course, to simply deem the film as a metaphoric one would underestimate what is an incredibly moving love story that rates among the greatest ever put on film. The film brilliantly examines the emotions of the relationship between two lost souls, their everyday lives and events, the longing and connection that ties them together, as well as societies restraints that keep them apart. The images convey both a beautiful and symbolic metaphor for the film (be it mirrors, curtains, outfits, etc) and the frame is often detailed in tight, compact shots to heighten the claustrophobia, and also express the emotional state of it's characters (who hold secrets within). It is a film of hidden secrets and emotions. Wong's expressive imagery and compositions as a form of complex depths, memories, and secrets is very reminiscent of Douglas Sirk, who is an obvious influence to Wong. Wong's love for old-fashioned filmmaking reached it's peak with his follow-up to In the Mood For Love- 2046. 2046 continues the political and emotional themes of In the Mood For Love while also standing as a collection of all Wong's films (characters, images, even dialogue from his previous films resurface). Wong's films are beautiful cinematic experiences. His display of trademarks visual expressions and compositions (often heightened by the masterful cinematography work of Christopher Doyle), absorbing pace, non-linear structure, and symbolic images and dialogue leave his films open for interpretations and thought. At the core his films are all centered around memory or the inevitability of loss. His films explore human connection, hidden secrets, and relationships in parallel to his native Hong Kong. There is a consistent structure and theme to each of Wong's films that bring them together in many ways. Few filmmakers in contemporary cinema are as exciting and visionary as Wong. While capturing the essence of old-fashion filmmaking, Wong's films are equally modern as well as post-modern, and like any great master of filmmaking Wong's films stand as a visionary reflection of the world… "Quizas, Quizas, Quizas"

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Resources
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