Top 250 Tuesday: #025 – In The Mood For Love (2000)

Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #21 on the list, Wong Kar-wai‘s In the Mood for Love. For a longer introduction and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are in the sidebar) where I’ll be posting that info later in the day.

in_the_mood_for_love_movie1Watching this week’s film, Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love so soon after last week’s viewing of L’Avventura actually provided a very interesting contrast, and very different answers to the question of just what love is and how it develops.

Whereas the Italian film is all about satisfying passions and partners jumping in and out of bed with each other, and at times the movie itself seems as jumpy and disconnected as the relationships it pictures, Wong’s film develops much more slowly, and also allows the relationship between its two main characters to do the same.

A very quick plot summary: Two married couples move into neighboring apartments on the same day. Over time, it becomes apparent to the husband of one of the couples and the wife of the other that their respective spouses are most likely having an affair with each other. However, instead of confronting their partners or trying to prove their suspicions as one might expect, they decide to explore just how the affair may have begun and developed. Eventually, of course, as a result of their experiences and the time that they spend together, they begin to realize that they are also developing feelings for each other.

In-the-Mood-for-Love_jpg_630x352_q85The keywords here are “eventually”, and “developing feelings”. The passage of time is the key contrast between Wong’s lovers (and I use that term even though the film seems to indicate that they may never actually consummate their relationship because they don’t want to lower themselves to their spouses’ level) and Antonioni‘s passion-fueled creatures.

Time also provides another contrast between the two films. In L’Avventura, events seem very compressed, and as a result the affair at the center of the film seems incredibly rushed. In the Mood for Love, on the other hand, takes its time unfolding, and in some cases the director even opts to slow the presentation of scenes down on screen, giving them a slow motion effect that again heightens our sense of the passage of time.

in_the_mood_for_love11Another very obvious contrast between the two films is simply the use of color versus black and white. Whereas Antonioni creates a very stark (yet beautiful) effect to create a film where everything is shades of grey, Wong’s film is plush and saturated, with colors at times screaming from the screen, yet he is never unaware of the effect those colors are having on the viewer. For a very simple example of this, just look at the shot above and to the right. The colors, especially those of star Maggie Cheung‘s dress really pop, but the shadows that surround both characters very effectively suggest the emotional and societal prison that the characters find themselves in.

This, of course, leads to yet another contrast to the two movies, and that is the difference inn the circumstances that surround the characters in each. Where L’Avventura‘s posh Italian setting among the glamorous people provides the main coupe a permissiveness to indulge their passions, In the Mood for Love, set as it is in early 1960s Hong Kong is as much about the repression of those same passions and a sort of resentment that the leads eventually feel towards a society in which, even though, as they say, they have actually done nothing to be ashamed of, they must, because of appearances, keep their meetings secret.

In the end, I have to say that for myself, I am thrilled to have had a chance to see both of these films on the big screen thanks to our local cinema, the Belcourt Theatre running concurrent retrospectives of both directors works, but I definitely found the Wng kar-wei film much more satisfying than the Antonioni piece. I’m very curious, however to hear what any of you who might also have seen both of these might feel about it.

Here’s the In the Mood for Love Trailer:

Just as a kind of post script, here’s a little bonus outtake footage that shows how different this film might have been had Wong chosen to go with a lighter tone than he ultimately did:

So what are your thoughts on In the Mood for Love? Is it a movie that you’ve seen or would like to? If you have seen it, is it one that would make your own Top 10 list? Or would it not even crack your Top 250? Let me know below.


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