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In the Mood for Love
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IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE centers around Chow Mo-Wan (Tony Leung) and Su Li-Zhen (Maggie Cheung), neighbors living in a crowded apartment... Read More
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE centers around Chow Mo-Wan (Tony Leung) and Su Li-Zhen (Maggie Cheung), neighbors living in a crowded apartment building in 1962 Hong Kong. Both married to people who are always away, they spend many nights home alone. The two make each other's acquaintance and soon find that they have a lot in common: Both enjoy martial arts, frequent the same noodle stand--and eventually discover that their spouses are cheating on them. (Mo-Wan's wife is having an affair with Li-Zhen's husband.) Hurt and angry, they find comfort in their growing friendship even as they resolve not to be like their unfaithful mates. <br> <br> Wong Kar-Wai's seventh film reunites him with Leung and Cheung, who provide perfectly evocative performances as the two hesitant would-be lovers. A slight departure from his more recent films (in which he used hyperkinetic camera movements to reflect the frenetic pace of modern Hong Kong life), here Wong uses fixed shots and stages static tableaus to capture a lost historical ... Minimize
22 Reviews from Epinions.com
Mar 31, 2001
"In the Mood for Love" (and other recent releases)
Pros: "In the Mood" is a dazzlingly beautiful film made with virtuosic technique...
Cons: But it never gives us a chance to get inside its characters' heads
The Bottom Line:
"In the Mood" is a great film for audiences looking to be engaged by ideas. (Check further down in the piece for notes on other recent films).
Note: The following review was written to appear in the Santa Cruz Sentinel. However the papers' evil big-shot publishers (actually my extremely amiable editor Bob) rejected it, since the two primary films reviewed have already closed here in SC. And so Epinions becomes the outlet over which this piece will be published. The fact that it was written for the paper accounts for the column format and for the fact that it focuses not only on "In the Mood" (and also for one or two Santa Cruz-related asides).
About a year ago, an English teacher of mine decided to take advantage of a double period class to introduce her 9th grade students to the work of Akira Kurosawa. She chose to do so by showing a library-rented video of The Seven Samurai.
I consider Samurai probably the greatest action movie ever madeand one thats ten times as moving, humane and exciting as the Oscar-winning Gladiator.
And yet, as my friends and classmates watched Kurosawas timeless story unfold, nearly everyone grew restlesspassing notes, then whispering, and finally carrying on full conversations.
I dont blame any of themJapanese films, with their at-first-slow pacing and theatricality, are something of an acquired taste. Im sure I had a similar reaction during my first encounter with them. And of course everybodys entitled his or her opinion.
Recently, though, I remembered the incident and again thought of how generally inaccessible Asian films, with their quiet contemplative quality, are to American audiences, while driving home from seeing Wong Kar-Wais In the Mood for Love with my parents and younger brother. I had loved the filmthe rest of my family found it claustrophobic and dull.
I suppose I can understand that reactioncertainly the movie isnt what most filmgoers having recently seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon would expect of a Chinese movie. Love boasts not flying martial artists, but rather two married adults who have discovered that their spouses are carrying on an affair.
The movie examines their relationship so closely that it becomes difficult to view in perspective. Do the two have an affair themselves? Thats the central question askedand its never answered. Personally I believe that they do. But like Citizen Kaneand last years The Virgin SuicidesIn the Mood for Love allows us to plug in any answer at all, and still feel that the final result makes perfect sense. The fact of a central, unsolvable mystery is what gives all three of these films their slippery, elusive beauty.
But the movie is grippingly told, and not simply interesting to look back on in the days and weeks after having viewed it. Individually, the two central characters are as enigmatic as their relationship with one another. Wong seems to be suggesting the same thing as Orson Welles in Kane: that any human being is reduced to little more than a mystery when examined closely enough.
Ive seen few movies as beautiful as this one. Crouching Tiger overflows with its share of gorgeous images, certainlybut there is so little human interest in that film that every frame feels slightly empty. In the Mood creates not a mythical world, as in Ang Lees film, but instead uncovers the hidden poetry of everyday imagescigarette smoke curling and rain falling, for instance. Intoxicated by his own eye for detail, Kar-Wai further beautifies these sights by placing them in slow motion. The result is truly dazzling.
Of course, the movie is ultimately about two human beings at a painful point in their life. Kar-Wai does not attempt to understand how they feel. He allows his actorsMaggie Cheung and Tony Leungto express all that there is to be said in that regard. Their faces show only pain and repressed emotion. We can never quite shake the feeling, though, that theyre wearing masksputting on the facades that will please society.
In the Mood for Love recalls the works of directors Robert Bresson (Diary of a Country Priest) and Yasujiro Ozu (Tokyo Story) in its patient observing of the forces that compel us, as humans, to make the choices that we constantly do, some better than others. But those directors never dressed up their stories with the displays of virtuosic technique that Kar-Wai employs. His movie is not the most accessible, but neither is it terribly difficult if youre willing to engage with it, and not simply ask to be entertainedand if you do so, the rewards are endless.
Of course, some moviegoers stay away from subtitles, regardless of the quality of the film they accompany. Its their loss, but also that of American audiences who, because of the lack of decent foreign film distribution, never get to see movies like Abbas Kiarostamis The Wind Will Carry Us and Edward Yangs Yi Yi if they dont live in large metropolitan areas.
Still, the slate of strong recent releases to which In the Mood belongs is made up in large part by studio films that anyone living near a movie theater will have the chance to see. My favorite of these, Monkeybone, recently played at the Riverfront. The movie is a sprawling, undisciplined clutter of ideassome good, some bad.
It would be futile to try to offer any kind of comprehensive summary of the film in the space of a review, but here goes nothing: Stu Miley (Brendan Fraser) is the creator of Monkeybone, one of the most popular comic strips currently being written. Hes also ready to ask his girlfriend to marry himwhen he gets in a car accident and falls into a coma. While his friends and loved ones wait for him to emerge, he finds himself hanging out with others who share his fate in a Tim Burton-esque nightmare world called Downtown.
Sound weird? You betparts of this movie are as off-the-wall as anything Ive seen since Being John Malkovich. And yet Monkeybone constantly flits between the outrageous and the obvious. For instance, theres one scene featuring, for no particular reason, a big Abe Lincoln head floating in the sky (coma victims get shot up through its mouth in order to return to their bodies). Its honest Abe, the great emancipator! cries a midget wearing a tuxedo.
Can this be the same movie that boasts the would-be-amusing early moment in which Stu loses control of his car and crashes into a brick wall? Or waxes poetic about the girlfriend he is afraid hell never see again to the strains of sentimental music?
Monkeybone is not what it could be, but it will probably gain some kind of cult following regardless. Its a movie you have to hedge your bets withif youre willing to overlook its sloppy opening scenes, it has a lot to offer. But an easier-to-digestand equally unconventionalfilm is The Mexican.
I was hardly looking forward to the moviea star vehicle featuring Brad Pitt and Julia Robertsfollowing its awful preview (which I was subjected to every time I ventured into a theater for months). As it turns out, however, its a fairly smooth piece of work, featuring a truly great performance by James Gandolfini in the role of a hit man who has one or two lessons in love to impart to Roberts.
The film has plenty of worthy moments outside of the Gandolfini-Roberts relationship, which forms its centerpiece. When Jerry, Pitts character, is asked why he didnt come through on a recent mob hit, he replies, You see, when you wanted me to go to the thing to get the thing, well, Sami needed the car to pick up some things. Journeying to Mexico in search of the gun for which the movie is named, he meets up with a cast of characters out of a Sergio Leone spaghetti Western, none of whose motives are as pure or simple as they at first seem.
I agreed with the common opinion that 2000 was not much of a year for filmin fact, only four of its releases (Hamlet, You Can Count on Me, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Virgin Suicides) did I consider worthy of holding a spot on a year-end top ten list.
But 2001 is off to a strong start and I hold high hopes for the crop of films it hasnt yet yielded up. For the first time since December, its safe to head back to the multiplexes.
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