And so ... In the Mood for Love ...
What a perfect title! The two main characters are most definitely in the mood; they also don't ever get beyond being in the mood, at least in my reading of the film. (This is one of those movies where a lot of stuff is left unexplained, so some people think the characters DO get beyond being in the mood ... I'm just not one of them. But pretty much everything I say here should be prefaced with "in my reading of the film.") Repressed emotions have rarely been so charged as they are in this movie ... probably the best comparison would be those British films where a couple of stiff-upper-lip types lust for each other in socially-acceptable silence. While on one level, "nothing really happens" in the film, Wong Kar-Wai does a great job of making us anticipate what is about to happen. Of course, our expectations are shattered repeatedly, or rather, they go unfulfilled ("shattered" is far too showy and emotional for what we see on the screen, which is quiet and, well, repressed). A Nat King Cole song that turns up late in the film (sung in Spanish!) says it all: "perhaps, perhaps, perhaps."
Maggie Cheung is as beautiful as any actress ever, and it's always nice to see her when she's not being wasted. Tony Leung isn't exactly chopped liver in the looks department either, and both of them give exquisitely moderated performances.
The DVD is terrific as well (Criterion strikes again). As I told my International Media class, students would probably be better served watching all the extras on the 2-disc DVD than listening to me lecture. Among the extras: a short story that influenced Wong in the making of the film; a making-of documentary; various interviews with the director and stars; informative essays on Hong Kong circa 1962, and on the use of music in the movie; and other stuff I'm forgetting. I give it a 9 on a scale of 10.