Monday, April 17, 2017

Short Take: In the Mood for Love

Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love (2000) recalls David Lean's great 1945 film Brief Encounter, but it's a masterwork in its own right. The protagonists, Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) and Mr. Chow (Tony Leung), are next-door neighbors in early-1960s Hong Kong. The two are married to others. Like the characters in the Lean film, they are determined to have a platonic friendship, but they fall in love despite themselves. Both tales of romantic yearning are gorgeously realized. Every element is richly thought out and beautifully handled. Lean, though, was primarily concerned with telling a story. Wong uses the narrative as the foundation for a symphony of images and visual rhythms. One cannot help but get swept up in the extraordinarily sophisticated color schemes, or in the lyrical staging, camera movement, and editing. But for all the visual splendor, Wong never loses touch with the melancholy tone of his material. One also cannot help but be affected by the characters' dilemma, and the imagery has a resonance that stays with one long after the film has ended. The film has an impact comparable to the most compelling music; it plays the notes in a manner that makes one want to revisit it again and again. Polls of filmmakers and critics consistently rate the picture as one of the best of the 21st century. One easily understands why. William Chang is credited with the masterful editing, costuming, and production design. The equally impressive cinematography is by Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping-bin. Mike Galasson and Shigeru Umbeyashi provide the haunting string score. The film also makes memorable use of the Nat King Cole records "Aquellos ojos verdes" and "Quizás, quizás, quizás."