I finally watched In the Mood for Love this week, and I have no idea how I put off seeing it for so long. This movie is drop-dead gorgeous. I am obsessed.
Set in 1960s Hong Kong, In the Mood for Love tells the story of next-door neighbors (played by my new idols, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung) who start a platonic affair after discovering their spouses are cheating together.
The film is directed by Wong Kar-Wai, whose artistic, evocative style is just…sublime. Aesthetically, everything about the movie–the elegant dresses, the peeling apartment walls, the curling cigarette smoke–feels just so. The color palette, lovely and lived-in, is moodily mid-century.
The main characters are both incredibly lonely, and in the beginning, it’s heartbreaking to watch as they pass each other in the stairs, each pretending not to notice the other’s isolation. There are many, many scenes of them sitting alone, standing alone, and most meaningfully, eating alone.
When finally do connect, it’s over food. Sharing meals becomes a poignant and intimate ritual.
But even after they’ve found each other, the characters still seem trapped in unhappiness. Perhaps to emphasize this, Wong Kar-Wai frequently frames them in hallways or doorways, behind bars, or shrouded in shadows. Often, the camera’s view is partially blocked.
I like that there’s this ambiguity in the storytelling. There are moments when you’re not sure if what’s happening is actually happening, or if it’s just the characters role-playing an imagined exchange between their unfaithful spouses. And maybe that’s besides the point.
As Wong Kar-Wai said in an interview, “I think it’s very interesting that most of the audience prefers to think that this is a very innocent relationship. These are the good guys, because their spouses are the first ones to be unfaithful and they refuse to be. Nobody sees any darkness in these characters – and yet they are meeting in secret to act out fictitious scenarios of confronting their spouses and of having an affair.”
I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it, because I do hope you’ll watch it. I think I may be adding it to my list of favorite movies of all time. High praise, I know, but I really did love it…in case you couldn’t tell!