In the Mood for Love: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

October 2, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

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, director Wong Kar-Wai 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. As with most of Wong Kar-Wai’s films, 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, I feel this is director Wong Kar-Wai’s greatest cinematic achievement. His basic 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. Other films by Wong Kar-Wai include Fallen Angels, Ashes of Time, As Tears Go By, Chungking Express, and Happy Together. The cast includes Tony Leung (Tokyo Raiders, Hard Boiled), Maggie Cheung (Chinese Box, The Heroic Trio), and Rebecca Pan (Flowers of Shanghai).

Video: How does it look?

Those who have seen Criterion’s standard DVD of In the Mood for Love will be pleased with this Blu-ray.  This new HD transfer was created from a 2K scan and supervised by the Director of Photography Mark Lee Ping-bin.  The 1.66:1 AVC HD image is still stunning, with detail being ever-so-delicate and contrast and black levels looking rock soild.  The only downfall of this new Blu-ray would be that 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 DVD 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?

Stepping up from the standard DVD is the new DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack, which might be the only reason to upgrade to this Blu-ray.  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.  This is certainly an improvement over the standard DVD.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Criterion has ported all of the supplements from the standard DVD over to this Blu-ray, but we’re treated to two new supplements: “On In the Mood for Love” I which film critic Tony Rayns discusses the visual style of the film and how it fits int Fa yeung nin wa’s other films. Next is “The Soundtrack” in which Rayns again discusses the very interesting soundtrack of the film. Both of these supplements were recorded for Criterion in 2012. The reaminder of the supplements are the same and we start off with four deleted scenes, an interactive essay on the film’s musical score, and a short film by Wong Kar-Wai. @ In the Mood for Love, an extensive behind the scenes documentary. This 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. Additional insight can be found in two informative interviews with Wong Kar-Wai, as well as via a video of the press conference at the Toronto International Film Festival. This disc also includes an essay on 1960s Hong Kong, some talent files, extensive text notes on Wong Kar-Wai, a selection of still photos, unused conceptual artwork, a gallery of poster designs, the film’s EPK, four television spots, and two of the film’s theatrical trailers.

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