Tuesday, April 04, 2006

In the Mood For Love, d. Wong Kar-Wai

Over the weekend I watched Wong Kar-Wai's, In the Mood For Love. I had seen a few of his films before, Fallen Angels and Chunking Express are two that come to mind. Those films almost sorta worked like some of the Godard films of the 60's, in the way that there wasn't really so much of a story. You would see a hitman walk through the city, and he'd drift in and out what seemed to be only surface deep interaction with people. Those films worked almost as an anthropological showing of one side of a city or a time and place. They stayed watchable, because like Godard, Wong Kar-Wai just knows what he's doing with the camera. Shots in slow motion, beautiful color, intriguing settings, great use of music, he just drew you in regardless of the story.

Starting out in Hong Kong in 1962,
In the Mood For Love
is a bit of a departure from the films of his I saw earlier, in the way that their definitely is a story. Two neighbors, Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan move in right next door to eachother. They wind up moving in on the same day. They continue to see eachother in cramped hallways, and satairwells. They are both married, but both spend a great deal of time away from their spouses, apparently due to their professional commitments. They eventually find out that their spouses are having an affair, with eachother. How they deal with this news and how they interact with eachother after this news is the heart of the movie.

We never see Chow's wife or Chan's husband fully throughout the movie. At one point we see Chow's wife from behind. We hear Mr. Chan's voice off screen, but never see him entirely. This puts the focus entirely on the two victims of this adultery. Movies about adultery rarely work this way. Usually we are forced to watch the adulterer, and try to find out their motives, their reasoning for commiting this act. Often times, it's as simple as just ouright lust. Here, we don't see the adulterers, but instead are brought into the world of the victims and the aftermath of the adultery.

Here, the victims at the start agree that they will not compromise theitr marraiges, because that would mean they are no better than their cheating spouses. But throughout the movie as they find comfort and solace in one another, this becomes more difficult. As Chow remarks at one time, he didn't plan to fall in love, sometimes it just happens. But what do you do then? If you are already married, then what? If you have allowed yourself to care for someone so deeply outisde of your own marraige, is that too an act of betrayal? You are left with these questions as the film's final 45 minutes span over 3-4 years in their lives.

It would have been easy to tell this story much less gracefully than it was told here. And the typical Wong Kar-Wai staples are evident throughout the film. The color is remarkable. Mrs. Chan's dresses seem to either match the light and mood of the room, or stand out in bright stark contrast, and work each time. When color isn't setting the mood, some repetitive (in the best possible way) music is. Conversations take place through perfect clouds of ciggerette smoke. At times we go into slow motion. Before this movie, I found myself wondering if Wong Kar-Wai's style could work with a more straightforward story like this, or if it was more set to these abstract non linear storylines/style experiments that his other films tend to be. Considering I really want to purchase this DVD, I would say it worked here.


Michelle said...

I adore this film. The use of lighting, camera work and particularly music to build the mood and move the story is incredible. I haven't yet, but can't wait to get my hands on the soundtrack.

nico said...

This reminds me, I need to order the soundtrack to ITMFL.

nico said...

How weird is that. Two people posting about wanting to buy the soundtrack simulataneously.

If that isn't an endorsement of the music, I don't know what is.

scot said...

yeah, the soundtrack is pretty awesome. i guess on disc two of the criterion collection dvd, they have a little talk about the music. i loved the japaneese (?) version of perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. his music choices have added a great deal to each one of his films that i have seen.