In The Mood For Love

In The Mood For Love

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Love stories don't have to guarantee sexual satisfaction. Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter would have died of shame if Trevor Howard had attempted to unhook her bra strap.

Wong Kar Wai has set self-imposed restrictions on the making of his new film, even tougher than Dogme's Luddite rule structure. Known as the Chinese Tarantino, his previous international hits (Chunking Express, Fallen Angels, Happy Together) have been cinematically daring and conspicuously violent.

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He throws that away in an exercise of minimalist restraint. Essentially a two-hander, he allows actors no physical contact and revokes his licence to shock.

Tony Leung is a journalist in Hong Kong, who rents a room with his wife in a family apartment. Next door, Maggie Cheung has done the same thing with her husband, who is almost always away on business.

As part of Kar-wai's game plan, neither the wife, nor the husband, is seen. They exist and are talked about, but never introduced.

Both Leung and Cheung's characters are painfully polite, which means you don't know what they're thinking. Even when it becomes obvious that their other halves are having an affair, it takes ages for either of them to respond. The idea of an emotional outburst would be unthinkable.

The film is so subtle and slow and internalised that it crystalises into a thing of beauty. Longing has been choked by a thousand years of acceptable behaviour. The cut of Cheung's dresses and the sheen of Leung's hair takes on an unexpected importance in what appears to be Kar-wai's experiment into the purity of unconsummated passion.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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History of a love affair that never was.
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Director: Wong Kar Wai

Writer: Wong Kar Wai

Starring: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, Rebecca Pan, Lai Chen, Siu Ping-lam

Year: 2000

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: France / Hong Kong


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