Raphael Georg Klopper’s review published on Letterboxd:
Each frame a story…
Each second a feeling…
Each little camera movement, a line of dialogue…
Each little cut…a moment lost in resignation.
This may initially fool you into thinking that In the Mood for Love given its fame and reactions, it’s all about just another forbidden love affair story, which it just might well be in a way, but is rather something far more complicated… and far sadder! As two individuals find themselves betrayed with their spouses dividing themselves as lovers, and between them, something also begins.
So what starts as a play-act a relationship as a way to sustain their own missed love ala Hitchcock’s Vertigo, delves into becoming a Douglas Sirk melodrama in the same melancholic veins of All That Heaven Allows, packed with all the same high contrast colors, the looming red, the hint of smoky white, the super-saturated textiles, and all the societal moral pressure standing quiet on the background like an oppressive order that bounds their actions in a dooming path to lead them straying forever in their state of longing.
Yet another story of individuals trapped in time, trapped in their daily mundane that becomes a surrounding prison, more obviously than before framed between the shadows of window’s bars. But in something that goes beyond the individual in his existential conflict as is common in a Kar Wai film, it goes beyond their own possibly romantic connection, unrequited or not.
Is about the ‘almost was’, of two beings trying to sustain a human connection within the exaggerated and evolutionary growth of the urban space around them of 1960’s Hong Kong, pulling away people, jobs, opportunities, those of sustaining a life and sustaining something called love. And within this stage, Wai and Christopher Doyle build a visual waltz of frames planned and orchestrated with the astonishing perfectionism of a director in high of his craft, met with meticulous craftsmanship.
Editing here is absolute perfection, with each small moment stitching together with an astonishing precise fluidity, where you feel the impact of each new moment beginning and unfolding, always taking you deeper and deeper into the immersion of this complicated relationship, trapped in this dreamy urban environment where rain washes a purgatory of dismal experience. As corridors, alleys, small apartments and offices become fragments of memories encapsulated in shapes of a once was that will forever live in ellipses, not truly fulfilled, not all remembered.
Creating frames within frames, with heavy foreground perspective shots, and where furniture and walls become a veil in front of us, as we become part of the experience, watching the characters as their voyeurs, molding their story and their meaning in our heads and perspectives. Creating the voyeur silent and poetic contemplation that you don’t want to miss a second because you know they all carry meaning beyond what’s laid on the screen.
With shadows and reflections draw their phantom faceless spouses looming over them emotionally. Arguing of when did they get betrayed, when did they realized it, when did themselves fall in love for one another as their double lives being sustained while trying to understand how their betrothed joined in a cheating relation against them both while themselves start one, leading doubt and anguish to give place to repressed desires.
Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung aren't only charming as hell, but also superb in every parameter of the frame they're in, they are almost purposefully insurmountable, especially in Leung's face which reveals so much and so little but you know it's all there to extract any perspective of feeling you can find from what he's feeling, and you'll probably be right. Cheung’s deafening silence is almost part of her pure charm, an elegance full of modesty and impotence, but with a fragility revealed in her tears that when they show, you feel every drop of pain.
We might don’t know exactly what each of them are feeling beyond the certain obvious, because in the end of the day, each being holds within itself a truth unique to itself, and unreachable to others. But one thing we pick up upon, that’s the denied inability to admit that they have become worthless objects of love for their spouses, and a new feeling awakens amidst the fantasy they create for each other. And what begins as an affair out of vengeance, becomes a true love story.
As she takes care of him when he gets sick, he sticks close to her giving her a friendly shoulder to her tears, they hang-out just simply enjoying each other's company, the title mood is created. But the insufficiency feeling starts eating them inside, unable to accept the other’s love in their life, afraid to commit to it, and preventing something that could’ve been beautiful and comfortable, because people always prefer living and loving a fantasy than embracing the real thing, and in the end, both get lost.
As love gets trapped in singularly moments that can never be recovered again in the inevitability of time. And our characters spend living in their created fantasy of love to escape the pain, spending time figuratively and literally, writing their story together, first as confidants, faithful friends, then lovers, victims of infidelity become lovers, but behaving like a couple. To the point that story becomes so real and powerful they can rehearse their own break up and it feels real and painful, creating a new one entirely when the idealistic fantasy of love does become real, but impossible to fulfill itself.
In the end…what was really truth behind it all? Maybe only a secret told in a whisper through a hole on a wall, it was love after all…living in a whisper across time and history unfolding. And when Nat King Cole starts singing Quizás, Quizás, Quizás by the 4th or 5th time you can bare nothing but pure sadden melancholia, but you won’t refuse it, you embrace it as one last resource of memory of that feeling yet alive!
A love story about the ideal love, the fallible tale of the impossibility of true love out of people’s own afraid of commitment and deliverance, through a tale of interpretations and performances of the illusory fantasy created to sustain their own loss of hope in such a feeling, to the point of recreating it and feeling it only through pain. But risking making it nothing more than an unreal fantasy lost in time? Just to feel it is enough to make it legitimate, but forever painful.
It really depends on your own mood for love to grasp what's really at stake here, and all will be rewardingly cathartic in its bittersweet feeling, and all the more marvelous because of it!