147 In the Mood for Love

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Michael Kerpan
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Re: 147 In the Mood for Love

#51 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Oct 14, 2016 12:17 pm

teddy -- felt much the same way. I wanted to like this but didn't (at least, npt a whole lot), for many of the same reasons you cite. Moreover, even Chungking Express, which I liked on first watching, didn't work nearly as well when re-watched.

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Re: 147 In the Mood for Love

#52 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jan 20, 2019 8:30 am

I re-watched In The Mood For Love today for the first time in a couple of years after trying to wean myself away from constantly watching it in a loop for a while in the mid 2000s! I felt as if I needed to as a bit of a palette cleanser in the wake of Stockholm My Love, and I was glad to see that it still works incredibly powerfully even on the umpteenth time of re-viewing!

I love the way that the first hand emotions are abstracted through both the neighbours and workmates going through certain infidelities or disappointments themselves who don’t feel as deeply or painfully as our central couple, such as Ah-Pen spending money freely and visiting brothels, or the painful irony of Mrs Chan having to juggle her boss’s schedule between his wife and mistress (But which does not stop them imparting some chiding advice here and there, as if our central couple has transgressed prioprieties even more than even the adulterous couple have. Is that intentional or does it just feel like a bigger deal because of how delicate that central relationship is?), and the beautifully paired scenes of ‘play-acting’ as trying to understand who was more forward in the initial meeting splits into the scene of Mrs Chan confronting the husband with his infidelity and then of Mr Chow putting an end to the connection between himself and Mrs Chan, as the implication is now that their relationship has become more important than the one between each character and their respective spouses.

For a film about distressing disconnection in the most intimate aspect of one’s life that one can do little to nothing about, I particularly love that the cinematography, the shared interests of the characters and their entire environment is constrasting against that in some fashion, emphasising the interconnectedness of everyone. Everyone is sharing the same world, except maybe tellingly the adulterous absent couple who create the situation in the first place who are off doing whatever maybe with or without each other, and the film feels as if it is capturing that moment of existence in the ‘old era’ where people are 'playacting' a functional relationship but know in their hearts that they have to move on with their lives as certainties in previous relationships disappear. The relationship between Mr Chow and Mrs Chan is entirely arising and based within the ending of their current relationships, and so really cannot have a future (or at least not a future that would not leave a sense of the previous failed ones festering within it). It is maybe ironic that the actual marriages seem phantom-like whilst this smallest of relationship in the wake of the adultery is given such weight and power by the focus provided to it. Maybe it is not horrible for that ersatz relationship between Mrs Chan and Mr Chow to move on or end, but it is still powerful and full of meaning for the characters despite being so brief. Their moments of interaction are allowed to move fully into the space of the mind by the climax and left to beautifully exist as the sense of nostalgic reverie that they were always intended to occupy.

In The Mood For Love is also a very ‘analogue’ film in the sense that the film would be difficult to modernise in a world where people do not have to keep interacting by borrowing things from each other, asking for advice or for someone going on a business trip to bring extra goods back for other neighbours or friends. In an era where you can buy things internationally through Amazon easily or google the latest advice on “what to do about my adulterous partner?” online, it is difficult for such situations to exist now, or rather different situations would likely arise in the modern era compared to the one being depicted (including that sense of relationships being allowed to pass into memory, which perhaps would not be the case when Mr Chow and Mrs Chan could still ‘friend’ each other on Facebook or something!). That’s really what makes In The Mood For Love feel equivalent to Brief Encounter and its 'lost steam train era' romantic-nostalgic view of passing connection. Also In The Mood For Love’s intertitle “That era has long passed. Nothing that belonged to it exists any more” movement into the Cambodian coda is very like the bookends to Brief Encounter, although while Brief Encounter is entirely framing its story within its bittersweet reminiscing about a past, finished relationship, In The Mood For Love’s breaks are more judderingly painful and not as smooth, as events move from the staged departure preparing for the real thing, to physical missed connections as the apartments change ownership, to Mrs Chan being shown to have a child (though tellingly no husband. But she has kept on Mrs Suen’s housekeeper!) to the heartbreaking long, tracking, drifting nostalgic camera movements through ancient temples of memory.

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