Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wong Kar-Wai's In The Mood For Love (2000)

Saw this for the first time last night. Among this film's many splendors perhaps the least, but the one I found myself marveling at incessantly for the first half, was how Wong's camera manages to make Hong Kong in 1962 feel both authentically cramped and unbelievably stylish.

The crampedness: the film is almost entirely interiors, and the whole point is that these two people are trapped by the close quarters in which they're living - trapped against each other, and once they begin to figuratively embrace each other trapped by the observant eyes of everyone around them. The only way to be free is to leave the country - and of course even then they can't bring themselves to be free... The camera, though, puts the viewer always about three feet away from these people - no farther than you could get walking past them in a crowded apartment hallway or tiny living room. There's a bit of the Ozu trick here of shooting from a point of view that makes you feel like you're in the room, in the scene - but of course Wong's camera is so mobile that it would make Ozu seasick. Anyway, it brilliantly creates a sense of social claustrophobia.

At the same time the film manages to make this life seem incredibly glamorous. It does it through an incredible sense of style and beauty - dresses, furnishings, neckties are all impeccably chosen. It does it through lighting and color control - every shot is immaculately composed and seductive. But it also does it through the physical presence and performances of the actors - Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung are not only beautiful, but they comport themselves with such dignity and grace that it makes their characters seem to thrive in this social claustrophobia.


Daniel said...

Nice review. I saw this at the Harvard Film Archive, which, for whatever reason, I didn't bother checking out until my senior year. I think this was the first film I saw there, and it definitely made an impression.

"It does it through an incredible sense of style and beauty - dresses, furnishings, neckties are all impeccably chosen."

As is the music! Great soundtrack.

Tanuki said...

It is a good soundtrack. I think it's particularly cool that it uses a piece from the soundtrack to Suzuki Seijun's Yumeji (a film I have to confess I didn't particularly care for).

Jeez, do I miss the Film Archive. Not that I took advantage of it as much as I should have. There was an Ozu series there once where they showed every extant Ozu film, period. I only saw a couple. I could kick myself.