Sunday, 18 January 2009

In the Mood for Love

Everyone has a few cinematic moments that change their perception of movies indefinitely, one of mine was the second Maggie Cheung walked down the alleyway to get take-away food from street vendors, with only the sound of Shigeru Umebayashi's Yumeji's Theme playing (make sure you follow that link!). It opened my eyes to the possibilities of soundtrack, cinematography, and minimalistic nuances portrayed in the faces of actors. This is a film in which the plot can be explained in one or two sentences, but would take hours to attempt to pass on the sensations it invokes.

Kar Wai Wong wrote, directed and produced this film set in 1960s Hong Kong, following the tale of two married neighbours who both suspect their partners of infidelity. They form a relationship based on denial and mutual sadness. Each scene that these two (Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu Wai) share is charged with unspoken and withheld passion, hearkening back to old fashioned pictures like Brief Encounter.

You never see their partners' faces, only ever overhearing a few words, re-emphasising the focus back to our main two protagonists, and much of the film is shot with only one of their faces in the frame. This drives home the isolation they both feel, imposed by their marriage partners and themselves. It also serves to intentionally confuse matters when they start to act out confrontations with their partners.

What can be overlooked by their status as the victims of the piece, is the strange way they deal with their predicament. It hints at more peculiar currents that lie beneath the surface of these two seemingly innocent character, and yet is instantly forgiven.

The melancholy beauty of this study on the fragile nature of love and broken trust is effortless. Each scene so carefully devised, every performance so subtle, every powerful colour, gently flooding your senses, without overwhelming (Christopher Doyle and Pin Bing Lee produce wonderful results in cinematography, Doyle's style evident again in Hero, but never so restrained). The repetition of music and settings used effectively to replicate emotions and juxtapose narrative elements.

Someone compared this film to the Chinese gift of gift giving, presenting the most simple item in such style. This film is a gift of simplicity and endless depths.

1 comment:

like milk said...

Nice writeup for a great film, the first paragraph reminds me why I love it :)