Jonathan White’s review published on Letterboxd:
This is only my second viewing of In the Mood for Love, so I don’t think I’m qualified to offer more than just a few observations.
This is Wong at the top of his game. His sometime erratic, playful, and impromptu style has matured to become extremely well considered and focused. The integration of sight and sound has always been a strong suit in his pictures, but here it reaches a new level of refinement. Maggie Cheung gliding down the stairs is filmmaking transcended. Even his trademark visual devices such as step printing and twin speed are so incredibly refined that they’re almost completely invisible .. but they’re there, and they have a powerful effect.
The thing that drives me crazy ( in a good way ) about his films is that they’re like the infamous potato chip commercial. You can't eat just one. His style of dropping subtle references and hooks to his other films inevitably forces me to immediately re-watch others I have seen. The same subtly and complexity of this bait will forever keep me from remembering and mapping all the references. While there are a dozen or so I’ve picked up, I know there are many more lying in wait to trap me again.
Having recently re-watched Chungking Express, the hook that stood out for me was the use of ‘just missing each other’. In Chungking, it was in relation to proximity. Here, Wong jumped a dimension to make this trope about time. Brilliant!
Speaking of time, I can’t think of another Director who is so fascinated by it. In every one of his movies that I’ve seen time plays an overshadowing role. Clocks are omnipresent. He plays with time with his visual expressions .. from frantic step printing to almost spiritual slow motion glides. Something I saw this time ( that others didn’t, so I might just be imagining it ) were repeating scenes. The same scene, but with different outcomes. Sometimes played very directly, such as the ‘practice’ scenes, but other times not. Sometimes back to back, like the practice, and a few scenes at their meeting spot out of the rain, and sometimes separated, like the scenes in the taxi.
You can’t say anything about In the Mood for Love without mentioning Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung. There is no way this film could work without their brilliant subtle and nuanced performances. I was scratching my head trying to compare Leung to any other actor. I can’t. He’s unique.
Although 2046 is still my favourite, and I still love the raggedness of Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love is definitely Wong’s masterwork.