In the Mood for Love

In the Mood for Love ★★★★★

Fewer films have sat as near the top of my watchlist for as long as this. I first became aware of it and Wong Kar-wai as a freshman in college, probably from lists having this among the very best films of all-time, and was naturally intrigued. Over the years, multiple people said I specifically would love his films and yet for various reasons did not get around to it until last year where, naturally, I was instantly enamored with them. But I still decided I wanted to see this one in a theatre for the first time and eventually hearing that the controversy about the color timing difference in this version paled to its incredible job of the restoration, finally took the chance to see this new 35mm print at the New Beverly.

Like all Wong Kar-wai films I’ve seen, this immediately endears itself with warm and dynamic filmmaking that paints a casually multidimensional world. In addition to the given greatness of Wong and cinematographer Christopher Doyle, this film in particular benefits from just godly costume design by William Chang (various montages of Maggie Cheung in different dresses seem to actually pop off the screen) who also did the flawless editing and the heart-wrenching recurring music of Shigeru Umebayashi’s “Yumeji’s Theme”, written as you can guess from the title for an earlier movie, which I honestly assumed was a classical music song. 

But for the first half of this, I still didn’t see why this in particular was put on the tops of Wong’s filmography and still felt more of a connection to DAYS OF BEING WILD. Ultimately, the film was just taking its time and as it moved into the second half painted its originally pretty central romance with deeper colors that anyone can see some part of themselves/their lives in. Had the film concluded with how it ties up those themes, including Tony Leung doing maybe the best job of a delivering a monologue in a movie ever followed by a scene of him preparing to leave Hong Kong that is a perfect reflection of him getting ready to explore Hong Kong at the end of DAYS OF BEING WILD (his first collaboration with Wong Kar-wai), that would’ve been enough. But then it flips through an epilogue composed of a series of scenes that at first confused me but revealed itself to be an expansion of the ideas of the film in the eternal and the metaphysical. Fittingly, it became clear the long influence of this can be felt on filmmakers from Park Chan-wook to Barry Jenkins to Ana Lily Amirpour. 

And so to walk away thinking this was anything but the all-timer it was reputed to be was basically impossible. They showed trailer for three of his earlier films before with the final one being 2046 which between it being a loose sequel to this and appearing from that preview to be much different than I had thought I kinda want to throw on right now (when there’s a reference to that number in this everyone in the audience including me went “ohhhhh”). Happy to have finally checked this off the watchlist and to have done so in a theatre. This print does have a greener tint than still I’d seen of it before, though more of an aquamarine than the typical shade you associate with some of his films, but the big scenes preserve the lush red/orange/black look so I’d say don’t worry if this is your only chance to see it on the big screen. And it gives a great excuse to revisit this via the original version sooner rather than later.

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