In the Mood for Love

Director/Writer:Wong Kar-wai
USA Films; PG; 90 minutes
Cast:Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung

Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai is revered for his intensely visual, romantic works. Kar-wai's lush, color-saturated films aren't precisely pop—too elliptical and non-narrative for that—but they are unrepentantly fascinated with image and fashion, style and suggestion. In the Mood for Love, the title of Kar-wai's latest, describes his oeuvre aptly.

Nat King Cole's intimate crooning frames the film, which is primarily a powerful, understated poem about two strangers united (and kept apart) under auspicious circumstances in 1962 Hong Kong. Chow and Chan (Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung) move into a drab apartment building on the same day. Each is married, but not to the other; Kar-wai only depicts their spouses it is from behind. The alienated neighbors slowly realize that their beloved ones are engaging in extramarital affairs. In a tour-de-force of longing and melancholy, Kar-wai evokes the impassioned but stifled cuckolds desiring a togetherness that—unlike their less respectable spouses—they dare not approach.

Kar-wai and his cinematographers elevate material that could make up any generic foreign film. The story is secondary to sensations and emotions. Fragmentary, haunted, and immediate, In the Mood for Love explores cinema's more visual possibilities. This doesn't mean it's an immediately satisfying movie. It withholds. Instead of the big picture it offers furtive doorway glances. Chow and Chan's clothes project the eroticism that characters are afraid to touch. A sumptuous dinner of glimpses.

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