Patrick Jensen’s review published on Letterboxd:
I am absolutely floored. In the Mood for Love is, without a shadow of a doubt, a masterpiece. On one hand, I am saddened by the fact that I have not sought out Wong Kar-wai's films earlier in my life; on the other hand, it's probably for the better that I have watched it now, at the age of 27, where I at least have had more experiences in life that made the film feel immensely identifiable. The bittersweetness of this experience is the way I would sum up my impression of this film. The technical brilliance of this film is admirable on every single aspect, and the emotional impact the film left on me is one that is deeply personal. It brings me both joy and pain to even write anything about this film.
In the Mood for Love takes place in 1960s Hong Kong, and is about Su (Maggie Cheung) and Chow (Tony Leung), who are each others neighbors. They are both familiar with each other, even if there haven't been many interactions between them. They start to talk and develop a friendship with each other, when they slowly start to suspect that Su's husband is having an affair with Chow's wife. As their friendship develops, and they investigate and prepare to confront their spouses, romantic feelings begin to bloom between Su and Chow. Feelings that both are hesitant to act upon, because they don't want to stoop down to the level of their spouses.
I am a person who has a terrible tendency to bottle up my feelings and never act upon them, or confront the people whom I have positive or negative feelings towards. In that regard, this film perfectly captured how painful this way handling your emotions can be. Wong Kar-wai's balanced direction, which quickly establishes characters and setting, but lets every emotional moment linger for the audience to truly soak in, works wonders here. It's amazing to think how much Wong Kar-wai manages to capture in a runtime of 98 minutes; from Su and Chow's swift encounters on the way to the noodle stall, to the subtle romantic tension that occurs between them, until their bitter end, it feels as if the film captures a long-lasting relationship with the span of decades, even though less than a year has passed within the film.
In regards to technical aspects, Christopher Doyle's cinematography, with its creative blocking and use of both intensely bright and dark colors perfectly enhances the conflicted nature of Su and Chow's platonic friendship. The bittersweet score brilliantly complements the chaotic emotional landscape that both Su and Chow find themselves in. If there is one aspect that I want to commend Wong Kar-wai for in this film, it his use of the absence of Su and Chow's spouses. Su's husband is nothing but a disembodied voice, and Chow's wife is only seen from the back. This means that when Wong Kar-wai finally uses the shot reverse shot-technique to show the budding chemistry between Su and Chow while they eat dinner, the use of the technique ultimately ends up creating more intimacy. Wong Kar-wai definitely has a fine grasp on how to use simple cinematic techniques to their full effect, and I can only say that I am completely awestruck by this.
In conclusion, I can't praise In the Mood for Love enough. I can simply say it is one of the most beautiful tragedies I have seen within the cinematic media, and I look forward to watching more of Wong Kar-wai's filmography.