In the Mood for Love

In the Mood for Love ★★★★½

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Criterion Collection - #147

Wong Kar-Wai has always had an obsession with romantic love, and his filmography has explored the multiple angles of love entering and departing from our lives, with characters either colourfully defined (As Tears Go By and Chungking Express) to simplistically constructed (Ashes of Time and In The Mood For Love); by this I don’t consider the latter to be a shortcoming but rather a personal observation. Kar-Wai adores in expanding the conveyance of this emotion, allowing the audience to feel the grand weight of something so miniature; noting each glance, each turn, each touch and identify the intention and impact of it all.

In The Mood For Love, the celebrated film from the filmmaker, had been blinded from me until now, committing myself to only see the film when presented with the opportunity to view the film from a disc format, knowing that the online streaming option would be frustrating in my household and thinking that it would be unfair for the film and my initial experience to endure through such potential hiccups.

Right off the bat, what I noted from the filmmaker was a greater sense of maturity and sensitivity from his characters and storytelling. Departing from the rushing excitement and joy of fresh and youthful love, and instead focusing on the developed and melancholy emotional turmoil that humans frequently endured once the passion has aged. The emotional waters that our two protagonists are swimming in are viscous and painful, they contemplate prior to the decisions they are about to embark and reflect on the events and decisions that have led them to where they are now. Easy resolutions don’t come to them in spades as they frequently have to consider the collateral that comes with their choices, unlike when they were younger and single, where responsibility is only for themselves.

Kar-Wai takes a more meditative and contemplative approach, allowing significant time to latch ourselves onto the characters. Emphasis is created for our two characters from the start through specific framing, as we see their partners frequently obscured, but given by their manner and physical presence, they are not far from the characters that we are following, hence the reinforcement of a potential attraction that may erupt later in the film. There is certainly a requirement of patience to finally see these two characters form some sort of romantic bond, but Kar-Wai ensures that the wait is worth it, highlighting in the first act the shaking foundations of their marriages and clarifying the emotional gaps that linger as their marriages further dissolves.

When, finally, they find solace in one another, Kar-Wai prevents them from acting on their impulses, they showcase a greater sense of patience and maturity that prevents them from having their cake and eating it too. They frequently discuss the risks with their relationship and allows the time they spend together as an opportunity to reflect, to allow the other to represent the figure that has been missing from their life for some time. Eventually, we see this relationship blossom as an act of therapy, to aid one another in their attempts to get through this tragedy that has befallen upon their lives and to come out the other end revived and strengthened.

Although some spots of the film did feel disconnected or incoherent, then again, I felt the same thing when I watched many of his films for the first time, and upon subsequent viewings, gained a more comprehensive perspective on the elements that Kar-Wai was attempting to tackle. I would not be surprised if I find myself adoring this film in my second or third visit, but if there are things that I am sure of, it would be that I will certainly be back to see this film again in the future and that Kar-Wai is becoming one of the most fascinating filmmakers that I have ever come across.

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