In the Mood for Love: Criterion Collection
On the commentary track for Out of Sight, Steven Soderbergh talks about a "morning after" scene he nearly cut, but kept. He said his rationale for saving it was that though he knew the scene didn't advance the plot it said something about the characters, and his movie probably would be the only film that year to include a scene that showed characters who are aware of the consequences of their actions. He probably was right, and if a director made a movie solely out of these normally forgotten scenes, that would be pretty close to making a Wong Kar-wai film. Usually shot in vibrant colors, Wong Kar-wai's movies are filled with asides, moments of reflection, acknowledgments of mistakes, and digressions that make up the majority of our daily lives but very little Hollywood screen time. Yet somehow Wong, through his talents as a filmmaker, makes these moments as touching and real as they are in our own personal worlds, but yet in cinematic terms. Something of an anomaly in his home territory of Hong Kong, Wong has gained attention via the Cannes Film Festival, where he won a Best Director award for his previous film Happy Together. In the U.S., Quentin Tarantino has been one of his biggest supporters. One can only hope the director will earn even more fans, as Wong's In The Mood for Love ("Hua yang nian hua") (2000), appearing on DVD under the Criterion folio, is a delicious introduction to one of the great modern filmmakers. Maggie Cheung stars in In The Mood for Love as Mrs. Su Li-zhen Chan, a travel agent's secretary who is looking for housing in Hong Kong in 1962. Both she and the also-married journalist Mr. Mo-wan Chow (Tony Leung) look for places to live in the same neighborhood at the same time. Eventually they end up as next-door neighbors, with their furniture delivered on the same day. The two keep crossing paths, and both begin to suspect that their spouses are carrying on affairs. As it turns out, their mates are having an affair with each other which leads the hurt, unsure Su and Mo-wan to begin a mock courtship to understand why their spouses pursued their infidelities. The two bond as they spend time together, and Su even helps Mo-wan write a samurai serial. Insisting they will not be like "them," the pair nonetheless finds themselves attracted to each other. Rumors swirl around them but even then, Su and Mo-wan don't know how to deal with their newfound emotions, or how they should act on them.
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Like many of the best modern filmmakers, Wong Kar-wai understands how to use music to heighten emotions. With In the Mood for Love, he relies heavily on the Spanish language recordings of Nat King Cole (though never the song "In the Mood for Love" itself) to brilliant effect by using sections of a song as a chorus to indicate what has passed before. Time is something Wong's film is deeply aware of, and in particular how quickly it passes (there are numerous shots of clocks in the movie). For the two would-be lovers, the film draws out the moments where something almost happens, as well as their inability to fully connect as they are confined by their concerns for morality and propriety. It's a technique that places the actors and their emotions at the film's center skillfully achieved, considering that Wong usually shoots without a script. But with such strong performers as Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung, the story never falters. Leung (best known to western audiences for his portrayal of the undercover cop in John Woo's Hard Boiled) won Best Actor at Cannes for his performance here, and his ongoing partnership with Wong is similar to the collaborations of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro the two tend to make each other's work better. In the Mood for Love was shot by Christopher Doyle and Mark Li Ping-bin and as complemented by the production design of William Chang, who also served as chief editor and costume designer the film becomes a sensual experience, with food, clothing, and textures rendered for maximum voluptuousness. But despite its gorgeous look, the movie remains a story of melancholia a reminiscence of the things that can pass through people's lives, but just out of reach.
Criterion's two-disc DVD release of In the Mood for Love offers a gorgeous anamorphic transfer (1.66:1) with both DD 5.0 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio, as well as digital English subtitles. In addition, there is a Dolby 2.0 stereo music-and-effects track, which seems to be a diminishing extra on DVDs. Although there is no audio commentary, on the first disc there are four cut sequences that have been edited into short films that exist parallel to the feature film as digressions, and three of these have sparse commentary from Wong Kar-wai. Also on the Disc One is the essay "The Music of 'In the Mood for Love'," which provides links to the music being discussed, and the Wong short film "Hua Yang de Nian Hua," which collects clips from older Hong Kong movies. Disc Two features the behind-the-scenes documentary "@ In the Mood for Love" (51 min.), which offers more cut footage, including parts of a dance number. Additional features include two interviews with Wong (22 min., 15 min.), the Toronto International Film Festival press conference with stars Cheung and Leung (44 min.), an essay by film scholar Gina Marchetti on the film's setting, trailers, TV spots, an electronic press kit, promotional artwork and concepts, a photo gallery, and biographies of key cast and crew. To top it off, an enclosed booklet includes the short story "Intersection," on which the film was partly based. Dual-DVD keep-case.
(Editor's note: The Canadian release of In the Mood for Love includes "The World of In the Mood for Love: A Text Exploration of Costumes, Design and Cuisine," a production featurette, a photo gallery, trailers, and textual supplements.)