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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Monday August 13, 2018 

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In the early 1960s in Hong Kong, newspaperman Chow Mo-Wan (Tony Leung) and his wife move into a room in an apartment block mainly inhabited by the Shanghai community. The same day, Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) and her husband – who is overseas on business – move into the adjoining apartment. Chow’s wife is also away from home much of the time, and the two soon become friends. Slowly they both face the fact their spouses are having an affair, and their own feelings and certainties are challenged.

"Time. Love. Broken bonds of love. Memory. Secrets. Wong Kar-Wai, with the help of his two cinematographers (because Aussie Chris Doyle wasn’t available for the entire 14 months it took to make the film!), has literally painted a montage in tribute to these emotional cornerstones of our lives, pasting each piece carefully adjacent to another, evoking mood and feeling where words are mere obstacles. The film pauses and slips, moves forward and reveals, but in cinematic terms it is more visceral as the images compound and build a composite sense of time, place, feeling and circumstance. It is not an easy film for audiences jaded by mainstream cinema, requiring a different mental vigilance to capture its essence. For me, the film is above all a paean to memory – in the nostalgic sense of something once cherished, now lost. Whether intended or not, the final sequence, among the ruins of Angkor Wat is teeming with the film’s core issues of lost memories. Here, symbolised by the crumbling culture of a crumbling society, the ruins of temples stand for the ruins of a love affair, seen through the nostalgia of a time past. The secrets that are buried here are secrets that refuse to die – although they change and decay. Like life. Like love. Like memories."
Andrew L. Urban

" In the Mood for Love is a gloriously made and structured, reflective film by Wong Kar-Wai, whose cinematic approach haunts and affects. A love that never was, that never should be and never could be is the theme; the storyline is always secondary to the emotions. Scenes that tell us what is happening are short and abrupt at times, while emotions are described by slow, contemplative cinematography making us catch our breath with their intensity. Simple actions become emotional and thought provoking. We watch the two main characters talking over a meal in a restaurant: the camera pans from one to the other and we are intrinsically involved in the evolving relationship and closeness between them. We watch them through windows, in mirrors and not directly. He smokes a cigarette: we watch the smoke as it swirls playfully in the light. She is stirring a cup of coffee but it is more than the coffee that is on her mind: she pauses, steps back deep in thought. I like the way we never meet the other wife and other husband – we always see them from behind or hear their voices off screen. This hones our interest in Su Li-Zhen and Chow-Wan, played to perfection by Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung. Wardrobe and music have great impact with Su Li-zhen's ever-changing dresses and the weeping violin whose haunting rhythmic theme evokes poignant moments. I love the use of the musically seductive Quizas Quizas Quizas (Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps) in its native Spanish and crooned by the incomparable Nat King Cole, which only too well describes the emotional question at the heart of the film. I counted Maggie Cheung wearing eight different dresses – and that was just in the first 15 minutes! And they are all striking, clinging alluringly to every curve: each dress is identical in design (zipper at the side, short sleeves, swept over at the front) with a standup oriental collar that accentuates the formality of the culture. The epitome of elegance, Cheung's appearance shows outwardly displays total control, while inside her emotions are as rocky as a dinghy at sea. The ending may surprise you, but on reflection, anything far from this would not fulfill Wong Kar-Wai's intention."
Louise Keller

"When Wong Kar-Wai makes films set in the present day (like Fallen Angels and Happy Together); they're sprawling, gorgeously immediate reveries held together by diary-style voiceover - in love with the glamour of the present moment. On the other hand, his period pieces (like Days Of Being Wild and this one) see everything through a veil of nostalgia: the effect is hushed yet gaudy, like stained-glass windows in church. The contemporary films inhabit dizzying, impossibly vivid fish-tank worlds, with saturated colours that glow like neon seen through water, and wide-angle lenses used to transform apartments or takeaway food outlets into vast submarine caverns. The space here is just as cosy but more drably confined, with frieze-like, cluttered images of characters huddling from the rain in corridors, alleys, or cramped rooms. Often parts of the shot are masked, as if the viewer too were stuck in a narrow doorway or behind office furniture; appropriately for a film about potential lovers who never quite come together, much of what's crucial is left unseen or unsaid. Yet rather than probing for depth, the camera encourages us to contemplate the fragile surface of these images - the studied disorder of the framing, the beauty and delicacy of the actors, or the lysergic patterns of Maggie Cheung's amazing outfits. Wong's approach to narrative owes something to modernist European filmmakers such as Michelangelo Antonioni: he sets up an initial romantic intrigue, but very little comes of it, and the plot possibilities gradually drain away. Still, even after the characters part company forever, their story wanders on, in search of an ideal, impossible ending that can never be reached. Wonderfully, it's as if we were remembering the film while still watching it. People and places may vanish, but our sense of the past lingers in the space that remains, like the tango music we've heard throughout - conjuring up an unforgettable, yearning mood."
Jake Wilson

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CAST: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, Rebecca Pan, Lai Chen

DIRECTOR: Wong Kar-Wai

PRODUCER: Wong Kar-Wai

SCRIPT: Wong Kar-Wai

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Christopher Doyle, Mark Li Ping Bing

EDITOR: William Chang

MUSIC: Michael Galasso


RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

(In Cantonese, Mandarin, French with English subtitles.)



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