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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » In The Mood For Love (MEI AH Laser Disc Co.)
In The Mood For Love (MEI AH Laser Disc Co.)
MEI AH Laser Disc Co. // Unrated // December 11, 2000
List Price: $18.95 [Buy now and save at Hkflix]
Review by Chris Hughes | posted August 15, 2001 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Rent It
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P R I N T
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Features: Widescreen 1.85:1. Audio: Cantonese and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1. Cantonese and Mandarin Dolby 2.0 surround. Subtitles: English, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese. Region free encoding.

The Movie:
In the Mood for Love made quite a splash amongst American critics when it was released here in December of 2000 and after viewing it on this Chinese import disc it's readily apparent why. Director and Writer Kar-wai Wong has assembled one of the most cinematically literate and emotionally poignant films to come out of any nation in recent years. In the Mood for Love is a work of high art that exhibits a level of subtlety and depth rarely seen these days.

The film begins when two married couples move into apartments across a hall from each other. The husband of one couple and the wife of the other immediately depart for reasons that seem at first unrelated. Soon it becomes apparent though that the two are having an affair. At first in order to console one-another and later as a form or revenge the remaining spouses take up an affair of their own and the film follows that relationship as it develops.

As I said in the opening paragraph, In the Mood for Love is a cinematically literate film. Kar-wai Wong masterfully crafts each frame and cut in such a way as to lend greater meaning to the plot. His style draws from varied influences, the most obvious being Hitchcock, Scorsese and Lynch. His camera isn't afraid to wander off of the faces of the characters and to explore compositions and objects that relate to the plot on a metaphoric level. There's a strong current of the abstract here and many of the compositions are reminiscent of the work of still photographers Paul Strand and Georgia O'Keefe.

There are no subjective viewpoints in this film but the objective camera is far from dispassionate. Rather, it moves freely across and around the characters and settings. Kar-wai Wong uses this roving eye to pick out textures and surfaces thus calling attention to the nature of his subject's relationship. Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) are trapped in their marriages, trapped by their jobs and trapped by the illicit nature of their affair. They relate to each other in a quiet, controlled way that struggles to maintain the appearance of propriety but that is only a surface veneer. Indeed, In the Mood for Love is as much about surfaces as it is about deeper connections and the camera makes that fact explicit by examining in loving detail the contours and textures of every environment.

Of course, all of this craftsmanship would have been for not if the actors hadn't been up to the task but each of the players gives a fantastic performance. Most notable amongst them is the radiant Maggie Cheung who delivers one of the most masterful character studies I've seen. Where the typical Hollywood director would rely on close-ups of actors faces Kar-wai Wong often focuses his lens on the back of the neck, a grasping hand or a pair of feet. Maggie Cheung is able in these circumstances to project her character just as fully as if we were looking into her eyes. She seems to smolder with emotion in the tradition of the greatest Noir heroines and it is her performance more than any other, in concert with Kar-wai Wong's direction that elevates In the Mood for Love to the status of modern classic.

The Picture:
This Chinese disc from Mei Ha is non-anamorphic widescreen. The print is reasonably clean with just a handful of instances of pinholes and scratches. The colors are vibrant without being over saturated and the gradations between deep black and pure white are broad and well rendered. There is a fair amount of grain apparent in the transfer but not to the point of distraction. More troubling is an over exuberant use of edge sharpening that leads to a noticeable halo effect around dark objects. In all it's a serviceable transfer but nothing to write home about.

The Sound:
Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are available for both Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks. Unfortunately both are sub standard. The dialogue and most of the incidental sounds are firmly planted in the center front sound stage with the surrounds used mainly for music. The LFE is almost completely inactive. In the Mood for Love is primarily a dialogue driven movie though so the lack of aggressive surround shouldn't be too much of a draw back.

The Extras:
There are no extras of note on this import disc. The only available ancillary content is a text screen with a synopsis of the film (don't read it before watching) and another with cast and crew information. There are twelve chapter stops and subtitles in a variety of languages including traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese and English.

Conclusion:
I can't say enough good things about In the Mood for Love. This is a film of the highest order and one that should delight both hardened fans of the cinema and those interested in pure dramatic entertainment. Chances are good that an American studio will release a technically superior version of the film in the near future but if you can't wait until then this is a great disc to add to the collection. I give it a rating of Highly Recommended based on the merit of the film alone.

NOTE With the recent Criterion release of this film the MEI AH Laser Disc Co. version is superseded. I change my rating to 'Rent It' and encourage you to look into purchasing the Criterion version.
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