BP’s Top 100 Challenge #62: In the Mood for Love, by Sarah Brinks
I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list has a good number of films I hadn’t seen before so it is a good source for my challenge.
My first exposure to In the Mood For Love actually came from a 2016 documentary called, The First Monday in May about the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition, “China: Through The Looking Glass”. Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood For Love was a major inspiration for that exhibit and Wong provided input on the exhibit. The colorful costumes and 1960’s Chinese style that is essential to the visual style of In the Mood For Love were an excellent choice for a fashion exhibit.
The performances by the two leads, Maggie Cheung as Mrs. Chan and Tony Chiu-Wai Leung as Mr. Chow, were intoxicating. They remain stone-faced and still throughout the film but manage to convey so much emotion through body language and glances. The few moments of raw emotion we saw stood out and were often heartbreaking. The scenes when they rehearsed confronting their spouses or leaving each other that resulted in Mrs. Chan crying and Mr. Chow comforting her became almost erotic because they were the few moments of physical contact between them. I also loved the scenes-within-a-scene when each “play” the other’s spouse to try to explore how the affair must have started. We see how they try to find the pieces that are missing from their own relationship that made their spouse seek affection elsewhere. The complexity of their conversations and actions in those scenes are riveting. I appreciated the way their exploration of the affair built the foundation of their own affection.
The structure of the film is essential to the slow build-up of their relationship and was very affecting. We see how they go from passing each other on the street to bonding over their spouse’s mutual infidelity to slowly falling in love with each other, while never really knowing how much time has passed in the film. The big clock in Mrs. Chan’s office tells us that time is passing but we don’t know how much, it could have happened over a few weeks or months. To me that perfectly mirrors how relationships can feel. You get so wrapped you don’t notice as days or weeks pass.
The cinematography is also gorgeous and a vital part of the this film’s DNA. The way the two main characters are always framed by doors or windows within the films frame, the luscious colors of the costumes and sets, and moments the characters freeze in a hallway while camera pulls frame around them is gorgeous. I was awed by the beauty on the screen from scene to scene.
I am a sucker for a love story, especially a forbidden-love story, and In the Mood For Love is exactly that. The strictness of their society keeps the main characters from ever being able to be together. We see how they protect themselves from the truth about their cheating spouses by denying their own feelings for each other for most of the film. Their love story is beautiful and sad and had me completely under its spell. In many ways, In the Mood For Love reminded me of another one of my favorite forbidden-love stories, Brief Encounter, and in my book that is very high praise. I really want to explore Wong Kar-Wai’s filmography after falling head over heels for In the Mood For Love.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
In the Mood For Love ranking: Carrier