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In the Mood for Love

Released 2000. Director: Wong Kar Wai

IRONICALLY, THE MOST EXQUISITE AND MOVING LOVE STORY -- AND PERHAPS THE BEST MOVIE -- OF THE DECADE is one romance that is never truly expressed. Wong Kar-Wai’s masterpiece is about desire, yearning, tenderness, sorrow and commitment to a cheating spouse.

In terms of plot, there really isn’t one. Then again, when it comes to emotions and feelings, this is a restless sea. Two of Chinese cinema’s most attractive stars, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Maggie Cheung are Mr Chow and Miss Su, neighbours renting adjacent apartments in 1962 Hong Kong. They are drawn together upon the realization that their respective spouses, who are never seen onscreen, are having an affair. Mr Chow and Miss Su progress from being nodding acquaintances to suppressed confidantes. Their relationship consists of reflective moments on the infidelity in their marriages, underpinned by a wounded principle that they will not be unfaithful like their spouses.

In slow, almost standing stillness of its narrative, Tony and Maggie convey the vibes of unhappiness and vagueness brilliantly. Acting with a wealth of subtlety, their innermost feelings are expressed with lightness. Mr Chow and Miss Su find solace and understanding in each other, a two-person support group resisting their mutual attraction.

Wong Kar-Wai’s directing finesse is apparent in the way he moves his camera, gazing at the couple longingly, at times a glance through doorways, a glimpse from a corner, always evoking the pining, aching heart of a furtive lover. Through the lens of Wong’s regular collaborator, cinematographer Christopher Doyle, In The Mood For Love glows and luxuriates in saturated colours. A splendid, breathtaking palette gives this movie a rapturous, dizzy blush, a swooning look of love especially in the way the photography caresses Maggie whether she’s standing still or walking in slow motion with a tiffany tin of noodles. The rich contrast of light and shadow, the intricate design of her form-fitting cheongsam dress and perfect coiffure gives Miss Su a delicate, vulnerable quality that hides a quivering broken heart.

Wong’s choice of music to accompany his visuals is wonderful, with the recurring cello refrain of Yumeji’s Theme and Nat King Cole crooning quizas, quizas, quizas (perhaps, perhaps, perhaps) at the lonely couple.

In The Mood For Love is a distillation of unspoken passion, a sentiment that lingers and intensifies with each passing moment, a classy, gorgeous, dreamy, stylized presentation of a certain mood.

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