In the Mood for Love

In the Mood for Love ★★★★½

An elegiac story of two repressed would-be lovers in '60s Hong Kong – a journalist (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) and a secretary (Maggie Cheung) – who discover that their spouses are having an affair, and begin to tentatively re-enact it, while stopping short of the physical contact they say would shift it from the insightful to the tawdry (though really the reticence smells like apprehension, and the failure to act seems borne of misunderstanding). It's a romance like none other I've ever seen, directed in a more restained way than WKW's contemporary films – such as the jaw-dropping Fallen Angels, one of the best of the '90s – but blessed with his recognisable style, utilising pop music, Christopher Doyle's sumptuous cinematography and a desperately moving pay-off to stunning effect. There's also something truly daring about the bitty narrative structure, which regards only the couple's contact as being worthy of focus, reducing their spouses to off-screen voices (like something from an old sitcom) and presenting a steady succession of loosely-defined fragments in which Leung and Cheung fret, murmur and fall in love. It can be too aloof, it's sometimes a little hard to follow and don't expect much in the way of emotional release, but this is a true original, and a film that lingers long after the credits fade.

Rick liked these reviews