"In The Mood For Love" (IMDb listing) directed by Wong Kar-Wai, is set in Hong Kong in the early '60s. Chow Mo-Wan (Tony Leung) and Su Li-Zhen (Maggie Cheung) move into adjacent apartments in an overcrowded tenement. Both are married, but we never see their spouses for more than a few seconds. As they become acquainted their chance encounters in narrow hallways and darkened streets become less awkward, and they develop a cordial relationship. A subtle, undeniable attraction grows when both are wounded by infidelity.
The pair's expressions and mannerisms convey longing, but they refuse to take the next logical step in their discomfited predicament. They agree an affair is out of the question, because they do not want to sink to their spouses' level of immorality. Chow and Su's mutual attraction smolders underneath their facade of respectability. Their hands accidentally brush. He shares an umbrella with her in a torrential downpour. They exchange knowing smiles, and gravitate toward each other, but they never cross the line of decency.
When they share their first meal, director Wong concentrates on minute details that mirror the forlorn lovers' suppressed sexual desires cigarette smoke curling toward the ceiling in slow motion; the cutting of meat as they eat their steaks; Chow putting hot sauce on Su's plate as he comments on how his wife likes her food extra spicy. Chow and Su's conversation is routine on the surface, but its rich with desirous subtext.
"In The Mood For Love" is atmospheric. Michael Galasso's moving score and Wong's mesmerizing direction draw you in. Visually gorgeous, and intensely sensual, many of the night shots of dimly lit, dilapidated buildings in rain-soaked alleyways, convey the characters' loneliness. We are bombarded by lush colors with a romantic noir quality. The camera rests patiently upon Chow or Su's face as they sit in their bustling offices, staring off into space.
"In The Mood For Love" is a beautiful, haunting experience, but don't expect anything resembling a plot. It is entirely and effectively character-driven. Each scene leads seamlessly into the next, weaving an engrossing tale of unrequited love. The lack of a tangible storyline is overshadowed by the haunting performances of Leung and Cheung. Along with the painstakingly authentic costumes and beautiful cinematography, "In The Mood For Love" is a satisfying experience for lovers of noir and romance.
Filmfodder Grade: A-