Jianne’s review published on Letterboxd:
If Kar-wai's Chungking Express is an ode to romance, longing and 90s Hong Kong then In the Mood for Love is an ode to 60s Hong Kong, nostalgia and desire. Watching In the Mood for Love will make you in the mood for love.
This film is about details. From small gestures, to quick looks, ringing of the telephone and shots of the clock to show the passing of time, it allows you to venture into a unrequited love story that's not painful but not overly dramatic. Kar-wai channels his use of details to move the story forward without too much effort just with simple rain, simple change of clothes or simple montage that exert such beauty it takes your breath away.
He knows how tell a story not through grand dialogues but through body language which is through cinematography. Not much head space here, much head space there, blurred wall here, never showing the face there, it leaves you guessing but also doesn't leave you in the dark. You know what's happening because it's being shown before it's being told. Repetition is also key here. Repetition blends well with time which blends well with setting and ultimately dances around the story.
If Chungking Express' aesthetic is filled with exotic colors, In the Mood for Love is vibrant and exhilarating with different colors even exhibiting some traces of noir style. Similar themes with Chungking, In the Mood for love portrays a more intimate type of longing, one that's filled with utmost desire that excites us through actions and not words spoken. We are plagued with a nostalgic 60s Hong Kong setting detail by detail and it entraps us into this alluring tale filled with cinematic beauty including slow motions and simple focus on blowing smoke; it is sexy without needing to be.
Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung exhibit such tension that we feel the love without needing to do anything passionate. Cheung's beauty transcends while Leung's restrained depiction is admired. There is delicateness present when they act together that just leaves you hungry for more. Of course this is all made possible by the soundtrack, handled by Shigeru Umebayashi. The music exerts feelings and flirts with Kar-wai's mastery of cinema together with the actors' vivid emotions makes everything a complete package.