24 In The Mood For Love

“He remembers those vanished years. As though looking through a dusty window pane, the past is something he could see, but not touch. And everything he sees is blurred and indistinct”

I have noticed that I have not covered much Hong Kong Cinema yet.  Which is strange, as it is probably the Asian market that is most open to the UK market.  Although I was exposed to it early on, I think because so much of it is in the Martial Arts genre, that I have not become as attached to it as I have say Korean or Japanese cinema.

But it is not without merit, and before we reach the end of this journey, several movies are going to make the list.

In The Mood For Love” is another film I started to love after in_the_mood_for_love_movie1 repeated viewings, as on first viewing it can seem to be somewhat slight.

The story?  We are in 1960’s Hong Kong, and two married couples rent rooms adjacent to each other.  We meet Mrs Chan and Mr Chow, but only obliquely see their partners, usually only their disembodied voices.  These partners are always away on business, or working hard.  However, we soon realise (along with our two main characters) that the partners are actually having an extra-marital affair with each other.  Mrs Chan and Mr Chow start a relationship with each other, initially to work out how their partners affair started.  They role play scenarios, but eventually the lines between their relationship and that of the relationship they are trying to understand starts to blur.

As we are in 1960’s Hong Kong, there are conventions that have to be obeyed, and they never quite embark on the passionate affair that such films would normally portray (although something at the end makes me wonder, just wonder, if they did actually consummate their relationship).

This film is Beautiful – the Christopher Doyle (assisted by the equally talented Pin Bin Lee) cinematography is as you would expect, a glorious kaleidoscope of colour.  Of special note are the amazing Cheongsam dresses that the lead actress Maggie Cheung wears – she looks stunning, as if she has been poured into each one.  Even the simple act of smoking a cigarette becomes quite beautiful.

Wong Kar-Wai is a much celebrated director, and to my shame I have not seen any of his other films, but this is a definite delight.

The movie unfolds like waking from a dream – each scene fades, and reawakens, and time has passed, you glimpse little pieces of the story.  It is shot slowly, close up, lingering on body parts.  People always trapped in the frame, by bars, windows, walls, mirrors.

Only at the end, when the male lead (a very impressive Tony Leung) has been able to share his secret (secretly) at Angkor Wat, do the wide open spaces appear again.

And the soundtrack.  Wonderful.  Dreamy.  Evocative.

As is my want, I have a small criticism.  This is a relatively short film (not much more than 1hour 30mins) and the final act is squeezed into too short a time – time shifts quite jarringly, and we never quite get the space to understand the fallout of the end.

This film is slight.  But beautiful.  And make sure you watch it twice.

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