The first film ever reviewed on this blog, back in 2009, was the amazing “Chungking Express” by writer/director Wong Kar-Wai. For the 9th anniversary of the Rockport Review, I’m going back to the beginning with a review of Wong Kar-Wai’s masterpiece “In the Mood for Love” starring Tony Leung (who also starred in “Chungking Express”) and Maggie Cheung. As I write this the film currently ranks #237 on imdb.com's list of the Top 250 rated films.
“In the Mood for Love” takes place in Hong Kong in the early 1960s and is a slow burn film about restraint, repression, guilt, and relationships prior to a cultural revolution. Mr. Chow and his wife move into a new apartment right next to Mrs. Chan and her husband. Although we hear their spouses talk we never actually see their faces, which was a deliberate attempt to keep them isolated and mysterious. Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan do have a sort of chemistry together but it looks to be purely platonic. They have a lot in common and enjoy each others company, while their spouses are supposedly away for business. While out for noodles they begin to suspect that their spouses are having an affair with each other and realizing this has them mulling over whether it’s now okay for them to pursue a relationship of their own. This film is interested in the ethics of human emotion and the human condition. Everything that went into the creation of this film has been well done, from the actors, the costuming, the music and cinematography. Even with everything I’ve mentioned above I thought the film was good but not the greatest. I think it has to do with cultural differences. I can acknowledge that it is a great film, but I personally liked “Chungking Express” a lot better. Even though both films deal a lot with love, relationships, and loneliness at their core. “Chungking Express” has this vital kinetic energy to it. It was also a more modern depiction while “In the Mood for Love” plays a lot more like an old Victorian love story. Both of these films are available from the Criterion Collection and I own them both.