In the Mood for Love is a lushly romantic, intensely sensual film, even though the two principals rarely so much as hold hands onscreen. The leads are photographed to emphasize their movie star looks, and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Maggie Cheung each give the sort of performance in which a glance or gesture means more than much of the dialogue. Director Wong Kar-wai's use of color, music, and sound is simultaneously nostalgic and refreshingly original. The gorgeous photography pours color through each scene, making everything from Li-Zhen's extraordinary dresses to the drab hallways seem beautiful. One often thinks of great cinematography as being stunning scenery, but the canvas here is of alleys, stairways, cramped offices, and even more cramped apartments and is every bit as breathtaking, perhaps even more so because beauty has been found in the most unexpected of places. Wong's use of tight shots and low lighting adds to the intimate atmosphere, as well as his reliance on a slow-moving camera that takes its time to absorb all that is going on, practically moving in sync with the music. Similarly, there is the continual presence of food. In scene after scene, the characters are either eating or preparing to eat, creating the feeling for the audience that they are peeking in on the characters' quieter, more personal moments. Throughout the film, what is unsaid is almost more important than what is actually said, and there is a sense that the film is a memory of one or both of the leads, looking back with regret at lost opportunities. In the Mood for Love ultimately provides a rare look at a director who is maturing as a cinematic storyteller.
by Bob Mastrangelo review