While a few romantic comedies in the past few years have broken from traditional plot structure and shined, there's hardly been any worthwhile romantic dramas. Both sides of the romance genre seem to always follow the same trail from point A to point B; the two leads fall for one another, things are great, they fight, they get back together in the last reel. This constant travel through familiarity makes rare gems like Wong Kar-Wai's "In The Mood For Love" even more special and enjoyable.
The film revolves around Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) and Mr. Chow (Tony Leung). As the film begins, the two have moved into the same apartment building as each other and find that they are next-door neighbors. She is a secretary, while he is a reporter who has the desire to write martial arts stories. Both of their significant others are often travelling, so they are hardly seen by the characters and, at least through this story, are never really seen by us.
Given that the two are neighbors and seem like relatively nice people, they find themselves spending time with one another, simply having dinner or talking. Yet, even in the simplest scenes, there are great little moments. Chow puts a little bit of sauce on Mrs. Chan's plate and she tastes it. The camera focuses on these little moments in a way that isn't overly distinct, pushing the audience to acknowledge the possibility that the two have feelings for one another; the camerawork throughout this film does a wonderful job naturally highllighting gestures, movements and other elements.
After the two learn that their spouses are having an affair, the bond between them deepens, but will they act upon their feelings? The performances by both Cheung and Leung couldn't have been any better. There were several scenes that I could have listened to without words, as their faces did a perfect job of conveying their emotion. This is certainly one of those films where a simple glance seems to speak volumes. The look of the film has also been delicately crafted down to the slightest detail; the film's beautiful color palette, detailed sets and strong costumes give the film a wonderful texture, feel and overall appearance. The cinematography by both Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping-bin often creates some of the most gorgeous, postcard-perfect imagery that I've seen in film recently. The film's 98 minutes even pass by quickly, mainly because I found the performances and story so engaging.
"In The Mood For Love" is a phenomenal picture; a marvelously acted tale of longing that is moving and often stunning in appearance. It's definitely a must-see.
VIDEO: Criterion presents "In The Mood For Love" in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen, the new digital transfer made from a 35mm interpositive. Criterion's new edition looks positively beautiful and is a remarkable presentation of Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping-bin's stunning and rich cinematography. The image remains wonderfully detailed and sharp throughout, with a smooth, "film-like" quality that's highly pleasing.
As for flaws with the image, I had a difficult time finding any at all. Another non-Criterion DVD edition that I browsed through contained its fair share of various print flaws. The Criterion edition, on the other hand, remains completely free of such irritants - the print was completely flawless; no scratches, dirt or specks. Furthermore, there's not even any instances of edge enhancement or pixelation for a completely natural-looking and crystal clear image.
Colors remained beautiful throughout the picture; the film's rich, attractive color palette appeared well-saturated, vivid and rich with no smearing or other flaws. Black level appeared solid, while flesh tones remained accurate. This is really a fantastic effort from Criterion that deserves high praise.
SOUND: "In The Mood For Love" is presented by Criterion in Dolby Digital 5.0, as it was in theaters. While the film is almost entirely dialogue-driven, I still found a lot to appreciate with the sound mix. The audio, as expected, remains rather front heavy, but also presents a strong amount of detail, such as background sounds and other elements clearly. The surrounds are understandably not given a great deal to do, aside from offer Michael Galasso's haunting score, which perfectly compliments the on-screen events. The rainy sequences also provide very enveloping and natural sounds of rain. Dialogue seemed to be clear and natural, as well. A very enjoyable soundtrack that, while not agressive, does work quite wonderfully for the movie. An additional isolated score track is available in Dolby 2.0
MENUS: Slightly animated main menu with score in the background. There's also some beautiful little transitions between menus. Appropriate for the movie.
EXTRAS:: The majority of the supplements are included on the second disc, but the first disc does have some supplements. Four deleted scenes are included, three of which have optional commentary from the director (the commentary is provided in English Subtitles). An interactive essay about the film's music, as well a note from the composer and director, are also included in a second called, understandably, "About The Music". Last, but certainly not least, a short film by the director called "Hua Yang De Nian Hua" is included.
@ In The Mood For Love: This is a 51-minute documentary that gives the viewer a complete look at the making of this picture. Through interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, we are allowed a look at how the film came together through the production and through the promotion. The interviews were insightful and enjoyable and the behind-the-scenes footage was enjoyable, but there occasionally seemed to be a lot of film footage in-between. The documentary is presented in Cantonese with English subtitles.
Toronto Film Fest Coverage: This is a program that offers the confrence at the festival featuring the two lead actors from the film, both of whom do speak English during this program as they respond to the questions offered by the moderator and the audience. The questions are quite good and I enjoyed hearing the responses from the two leads. This program lasts 43 minutes.
Promotional Material: This section includes both unused artwork and posters as well as the posters for the film's release and a very good 18-minute "making of" documentary (the documentary is listed as "electronic press kit"). Also included here are two Hong Kong TV spots, a US TV spot and trailer as well as a French TV Spot and trailer.
Interviews with Wong Kar-Wai: There are two interviews included in this section, one is a "Cinema Lesson" that was hosted at the Cannes Film Fest by Giles Ciment and the other is a 22-minute interview with the director and film critics Michael Ciment and Hubert Niogret. Both documentaries combined really form a good overview of Wong Kar-Wai's filmmaking style and concepts about storytelling.
Also: Cast/crew bios, a look at Wong Kar-Wai's career, essay about "In The Mood For Love" and photo gallery.
Booklet: A larger booklet than usual for a Criterion release; it contains a 46-page short story that influenced the film as well as notes about the transfer, credits and an essay.
Final Thoughts: "In The Mood For Love" is a fantastic picture with two great lead performances, beautiful cinematography and many other positive aspects to recommend it. Criterion's two-disc set is terrific, offering very good audio/video and a wealth of supplements about this great film. A must-see.