Plot: What’s it about?
The time is 1962 and the place is Hong Kong, where a newspaper editor named Chow (Tony Leung) has just been moved into a new home. As he and his wife begin to settle within their new place, Chow meets Li-Zhen (Maggie Cheung), a beautiful young woman who lives next door as it turns out, she is also just moving in at that time. Both happen to be moving in alone also, even though both are married and this sparks a small bond between them, even if just a bond of common fate on this certain date. As time passes, the two become even more social, with polite greetings and such, but never much beyond those basics. It becomes clear that some kind of emotion is present between the two neighbors, but as both have spouses and are good people, the emotion is never explored in the least. But soon, a shocking turn of events will open a window that could change their lives forever, should either of them choose to take the chance. Even with a tragic, emotional shock in their lives, can these two finally reach out and let their feelings be known?
This film has such a simple premise, yet comes through with such emotional force, it is hard to believe how…focused it is sometimes. As per usual, the director creates very complex, effective visuals to enhance the storyline, but this time around, he takes a much more natural, unobtrusive approach. The pace is slower and allows the material to develop as needed, but In the Mood for Love never becomes dull, not even for a second. The kinetic textures come from the intricate placement and movement of the stars, as well as the well crafted atmospheres they find themselves in, very impressive indeed. This is a very sensuous, erotic picture and remains one in good taste, as it relies more on emotion and sensuality, as opposed to nudity or graphic sex, which is also most welcome in this case. This one is not for those of you who pledge allegiance to the mainstream, happy ending kind of movies, as this is not your usual romance-based motion picture. I do feel it is a modern masterpiece however and since Criterion has issued a deluxe two disc edition, I’m giving it my highest recommendation.
He has a resume with many impressive features, but up to this point, this is a great cinematic achievement. The scheme is intact with In the Mood for Love, but he has held back some of his usual elements and when the smoke clears, I think he made all the right decisions. The editing is slower and more deliberate, which allows the pace to stay reserved and the material to speak for itself, which is excellent news here. But even though he has changed his approach a shade with this film, fans of his work will not be let down, as he delivers on all fronts and remains true to his trademarks. This is just soaked in emotion and when he adds the cramped visuals & stunning performances, you can’t help but be swept into the events yourself.
Video: How does it look?
Those who have seen Criterion’s standard previous offerings of In the Mood for Love will be pleased with this new 4K offering. This new transfer was created from a new scan and supervised by the Director of Photography Mark Lee Ping-bin. The 1.66:1 HEVC 4K HD image is still stunning, with detail being ever-so-delicate and contrast and black levels looking rock solid. The only downfall is there’s always a bit of grain and noise in the background. It’s not a perfect transfer, but a step up from the standard Blu-ray for sure. Having said that, the debris and scratches from the original print have been fixed making way for a very impressive transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
The same DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack found on the Blu-ray is present here. The soundtrack by Michael Galasso and Shigeru Umebayashi sounds downright amazing, yet refined at the same time. Dialogue is sharp and well-defined and we get some very discrete effects (such as raindrops in the background) that really make for an interesting, and unexpected, sound mix. Vocals are strong and crisp as well.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- @ In the Mood for Love – This extensive behind the scenes documentary is no promo fluff however, as it contains real insight into how the film was imagined, how it evolved over time, the challenges in making the film, and all sorts of other topics. You’ll hear from various cast & crew members, who share their thoughts on the film, the director, and the vision of the film.
- Hua Yang De Nian Hua – Wong Kar Wai’s 3 minute short film circa 2000.
- The Soundtrack – Film critic Tony Rayns gives us his perspective on the rather unique soundtrack of In the Mood for Love.
- Wong Kar Wai – A couple of very short featurettes with director Wong Kar Wai conducted by film critic Michel Ciment and filmmaker Hubert Niogret.
- Cinema Lesson
- Toronto International Film Festival – A 40 minute segment that showcases the T.I.F.F. in the year 2000 when this movie was being screened.
- Deleted Scenes – Four total, running nearly 10 minutes. Three of the four contain optional commentary as to why they were cut.
- Cinema Lesson
- Cinema Lesson
- Music Video – Tony Leung Chiu-wai performs “In the Mood for Love.”
- Trailer – A trailer for L’Immagine Ritrovata’s new 4K restoration of In the Mood for Love.
- Illustrated Booklet – Critic essay by John Powers as well as the usual bevy of extras we get with this insert.
The Bottom Line
There’s really no middle ground with this one, you either like films like this or you don’t. I’ve never been too big a fan of this one, but I do appreciate that Criterion took the time to give us a new, great-looking disc in 4K. For the true fans out there, this one is a no-brainer.