By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly
Set in 1962, “In The Mood For Love” tells the love story of a journalist, played by Tony Leung, and a secretary, played by Maggie Cheung, who end up living next to each other.
The writer and the secretary both have spouses, but they grow alienated in their marriages. Against the background of seasonal rain (one thing in common with “Rashomon”) and endless games of mahjong played by their landlady (Rebecca Pan), the two begin to look to each other for intimacy, risk, and satisfaction. As the action progresses, they will gain and then lose each other.
Kurosawa filmed “Rashomon” using 407 shots in less than 88 minutes, creating a rapid-fire, off-balance feel. Wong takes the opposite tack, favoring long, tender shots of its protagonists as the two leads begin to share their orbits. Maggie Cheung takes what seems like an hour to climb a flight of stairs carrying a thermos of tea, but that one shot contains everything the film puts forth in terms of sensuality, pleasure, and slowly savored delight.
Of course, it is possible to blame these characters for stepping out on their spouses, even if it seems that said spouses have done the same, and first. The world built by the two begins with suggestion, then what-if scenarios, psychological role paying, and finally the payoff, the torrid consummation. They learn the hard way, of course, that all too often a pairing that begins in anticipation and fireworks often fizzles for a lack of anywhere to go, or anywhere to go healthily. But they make it one unforgettable ride. (end)
“In The Mood For Love” is available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection. Check your local video store for availability.
Andrew Hamlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.