IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE written, produced and directed by Wong Kar-wai, with Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Rebecca Pan and Lai Chen. 90 minutes. A Block 2 production. A Seville release. Opens Friday (February 16) Rating: NNNNN
. Rating: NNNNcan't stand the thought of see-ing Hannibal? Then Wong Kar-wai's In The Mood For Love is the perfect movie for you. It arrives festooned with prestigious awards and nominations: although an anticipated Oscar nomination as best foreign film did not materialize, it has best director and the Prix Technique from Cannes; the Five Continents Award at the European Film Awards for best non-European film; prizes for star Maggie Cheung and cinematographer Christopher Doyle at the Taipei Film Festival; and best director from the Hong Kong Film Critics Association.
More importantly, nobody gets eaten. Indeed, not much of anything happens. Rather, director Wong devotes an inordinate amount of craft to a movie about two characters who don't have an affair, but spend 80 or so minutes teetering on the verge.
Wong Kar-wai's films -- Ashes Of Time, Days Of Being Wild, Fallen Angels, Happy Together -- are relentless exercises in style. Here, exquisite dolly shots echo each other as characters pass in hallways and urban lanes too narrow to accommodate two people, and an editorial discretion picks out detail as precisely as Robert Bresson. About halfway through the film, I had the eerie feeling that I was watching a Bresson remake of Brief Encounter, David Lean's 1946 art-house hit about people not fucking.
Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) and Mrs. Chen (Cheung) become neighbours when they move into adjoining apartments on the same day. Each has a spouse who spends a lot of time away from home. An attraction develops as they keep brushing by each other in the halls.
The first time I saw In The Mood For Love, I nodded off about an hour in and, when I woke up, had no idea how it was suddenly four years later and Chow was in Cambodia, wandering among ruins. After seeing the film again, I'm still not sure how he got there though I do respect the inordinate amount of craft in the film. It's a movies that is more interesting to think about afterwards than it is to actually watch.
I find Wong an enormously skilled director, but virtually every frame screams, "Look what a great director I am!"
Aside from the early and atypical Days Of Being Wild, his films are not to my taste.
They seem to me the cinematic equivalent of Fabergé eggs, fantastical objets that are easy to admire but hard to love.