In the Mood for Love

dir. Wong Kar-wai

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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The equally gorgeous Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Maggie Cheung star in Wong Kar-wai's sublime masterpiece of romantic longing.


Wong Kar-wai's masterpiece of romantic longing is a love letter to much of Chinese cinema history. Its tale of a man and a woman (Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Maggie Cheung), crammed into adjacent tiny apartments, their spouses embroiled in an affair and their own passions repressed by tradition, propriety, and a fear of the unknown, echoes a tradition of wenyi melodrama stretching back to the 1930s. The film has a deep, almost fetishized relationship with the postwar period, especially its clothing and interior design, that speaks to the continuing weight of history and memory in contemporary Chinese filmmaking. (Critic Stephen Teo astutely identifies the film's deep formal echoes of Fei Mu's postwar masterpiece Spring in a Small Town, further underlining this connection.) But In the Mood's most profound connection to the past is in the intoxicating performances of Leung and Cheung, whose grace and vulnerability conjure up the aura of vanished stars from the Golden Age of Shanghai cinema in the thirties and forties. Displaying Wong Kar-wai at the height of his powers, his extraordinary control over mood, tone and gesture felt in every frame, In the Mood for Love was recently anointed as the most important Chinese film on Sight & Sound's decennial poll of the greatest films ever made. "Rhapsodically sublimated and ultimately sublime" (J. Hoberman, The Village Voice).