“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.” These are the starting words of the cinematic masterpiece that is, In the Mood for Love. Directed by reverenced Cantonese legend Wong Kar-wai, this East-Asian Criterion Collection classic has transcended its contemporary romantic dramas and is indisputably one of the greatest films of all time.
In the Mood for Love is not a plot-driven film. Watching the film during the Performing Arts Center’s Valentine’s screening on February 11 was the most non-intense 98 minutes of my life. This is a film that you either love or hate.
The story centers upon the interactions of ordinary neighbors with extraordinary relationships. If only one word can describe the film, it would be “elegant.” The cinematography is analogous to a flamboyant waltz: solemn and slow movements with colorful designs and soft transitions. In the Mood for Love is visually and musically sensational; the performers in particular depicted the emotional nuances of their characters extremely well with little to no action.
This film has a special place in my heart because of its references to my hometowns, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Historically, Shanghai and Hong Kong were heavily influenced by the West, especially by the Europeans, both economically and culturally. Clothing, entertainment, and other artistic expressions developed unique styles—oriental fused with Western—and these imageries remain iconic to this day. In the Mood for Love utilizes these features extremely cleverly. The red and orange warm-colored lightings mimic the ostentatious nightlife of the cities; the bittersweet music “Yumeji’s Theme” accompanies slow-motion shots; the obnoxiously nosy but kind landlady and her trusty maid bring life to the characters. Whether or not you are familiar with movies like this, you are sure to find nostalgia and peace of mind after viewing.