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Netflix Recommendation: In The Mood For Love (Kar-Wai, 2000)

“Feelings can creep up just like that.”- Chow Mo-Wan

This movie has been in my head since over a week ago, when I saw it for the first time. I’m not even certain if I’m able to give it an objective review based on technical aspects, although I’ll give it my best shot. The mere fact that this film has grabbed hold of my emotions and has had me thinking over my previous relationships speaks to the subtle power of this film. It doesn’t demand it—the pace is slow, the acting understated, the dialogue sparse. Still, it has boatloads to say in those silences. It’s a beautiful, affecting film.

Chow (Tony Leung) and So (Maggie Cheung) rent rooms in an apartment next door to one another on the same day (Coincidence or fate?), and they slowly become friendly with one another. Their spouses work long hours, and often leave town, so they’re barely around—indeed, we never see their faces in the film. Eventually, after we get to know these characters more, they voice their suspicions to one another that their spouses are having affairs with each other. At first, they mostly talk about their spouses and what they think they are doing… but then they get to know one another. While they start to grow close, they vow that they will never stoop below their own moral convictions and have an affair like their unfaithful partners. But hen the line between acting as if they are in love and being in love begins to blur…

What this film states most eloquently is that while one can control one’s morals, one cannot control one’s feelings. The quote mentioned at the top moved me tremendously where it comes in the movie. I have found love in strange places in my life, and certainly not where I have looked for it or expected it. I realized I was in love with my current girlfriend when I had cut my foot on a piece of broken glass, and she was putting a Band-Aid on it. Before then, I was not sure how long our relationship would practically last., since I was moving away in a few months, and I was attempting to keep my long-term feelings in check. Just like that.

Personal relations to the emotional ideas portrayed in the film aside, it’s simply an expertly crafted piece of cinema. For a film to be slowly paced with subtle acting and not too much dialogue… without being boring? That’s the accomplishment of a master, and while I am not yet familiar with Wong Kar-Wai’s body of work, his reputation precedes him, and I eagerly anticipate the rest. The cinematography and music fill the screen with flavor, and the silences really propel the story along, unlike in most films where transitions are made as quickly as possible, with little elegance at all. Several scenes are began without yet revealing who is standing in the room. Kar-Wai introduces us to where we are, gives us a feel for the room, and then we overhear voices. We listen before we see. Then, we watch our characters speak. Every move is deliberate. Some may be bothered by how Kar-Wai never reveals the spouses., but when you think about it, they are not important. The only importance they have in this film is how they affect our main characters. A film that attempts to be ambitious in scope shows us how these characters feel—Kar-Wai instead wishes to create a film ambitious in depth.

And the ending… what an ending. I don’t toss the word “magical” around too much, but it comes to mind. I didn’t have an immediate visceral reaction after the end of this film. It’s a grower—it BEGS multiple viewings, and I wish I had seen it with one of my friends or my girlfriend so I could talk about it with someone. How well-acted it is, how well-thought-out the story is, how striking the cinematography is—all of this to me right now is moot (although I think it’s wonderfully acted, thought-out, and shot, if you’d ask). What this film does is capture actual emotion, and inspire it from the audience. So few films are able to get away with this nowadays, when everything is high-concept, everything has complicated storylines, everything needs to be fast-paced to please our ADD-addled minds. I’m guilty of it as anyone—so if a film that is slow-moving does not bore me, it immediately deserves immense accolades. I know that my descriptions of the tempo of the film, and the obvious factor of subtitles, might turn some readers off, but give this one a go. You won’t regret it.

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~ by russellhainline on April 10, 2009.

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