In the Mood For Love • 花樣年華
(Wong Kar-wai 2000)
Clip: Criterion Collection's Three Reasons to watch In the Mood for Love
Two married couples, the Chans and the Chows, rent rooms from Shanghainese neighbours in 1960s Hong Kong. Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) and Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) begin to suspect that their partners may be having an affair with each other.
Partly out of loneliness and partly out of curiosity, Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan begin to spend more time together. Their initial curiosity turns into real affection but, as Mrs. Chan says, ‘we will not be like them’.
The film follows the development of their feelings against an opulent backdrop of damask wallpapers and sultry slow motion encounters in the corridors and alleyways of their home and neighbourhood, all perfectly framed and paced to the sounds of Yumeji's Theme by Shigeru Umebayashi or Nat King Cole’s cover of Quizás quizás quizás by Osvaldo Farrés.
The reserved and brooding characters of Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan contrast sharply with the lively and carefree Shanghainese families with whom they each live. This creates a humorous backdrop to a story of desire and restraint in a very retro, very transnational, 1960s Hong Kong.
Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan eat steak dinners as well as traditional dishes, and get their accessories from Japan. Characters are constantly on the move between Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Cambodia, the Philippines and the USA, and filming took place partly in Thailand. However, the framing of Hong Kong as a hub of transnational activity is distinctly set in the past. Mrs. Chang's endless supply of qipao dresses and Mr. Chow's persistent smoking at the typewriter in a Western business suit all contribute to the captivating retro-nostalgic aesthetic.
In the Mood for Love is often cited as one of the first in a wave of Hong Kong-Chinese coproductions with Western countries (in this case, France), that would garner critical and commercial success among Western audiences. However, unlike other 'crossover' films it is not of the Wuxia (Martial Arts) genre. In the Mood for Love uses a cinematographic register of international commercial art cinema and is more comparable to films such as Amelie (Jean Pierre Jeunet 2001).
Having won prizes at awards ceremonies around the world, in 2016 In the Mood for Love was named the second-best film of the 21st century after Mulholland Drive (David Lynch 2001) by a group of 177 critics for the BBC. Definitely worth a watch!
BMC Cultural Exchange are putting on a free screening of In the Mood for Love at Quilliam Brothers’ Teahouse in Newcastle upon Tyne on Wednesday February 5th 2017 at 7.30pm.
See our Facebook events page for more details.