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In the Mood for Love (2000, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung)

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In ’60s Hong Kong, journalist Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) rents a room to share with his wife. He moves in the same day as secretary Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) begins her tenancy next door. With their respective spouses absent, the pair fend off loneliness by meeting for the occasional coffee but, as their friendship grows, so does the slow realisation that their spouses’ absences coincide and that they can only be having an affair.

When their suspicions are confirmed, Mr Chow, feeling hurt and betrayed, begins finding excuses to spend time with Mrs Chan, who becomes his confidante. He moves house again, and Mrs Chan visits, pretending that he is her husband, but the scorn of a neighbour turns her away and when he gets a new job in Singapore she refuses to join him. And when they meet again, Mrs Chan makes him promise never to call again…

The miracle of Wong Kar-Wai’s masterpiece is not its tender humanity or visual brilliance, but its very existence. The production was beset with problems, necessitating a 14-month shoot with numerous walkouts, re-shoots and location changes: when the Beijing authorities demanded to see a script before allowing filming to continue, they moved to Macau because the director never uses scripts. ‘We are physically and financially exhausted,’ he later concluded. It was worth the pain. His film debates the concept of memory with an electric, erotic tone that’s hard to forget thanks to Cheung’s endless fashion parade of cheongsams and Leung’s ambiguous motives – does he want to seduce her or cause an innocent woman the same pain his wife has inflicted on him?

Mr Chow’s sense of his own failure is made worse by the bragging of a promiscuous colleague (Siu Ping-Lam, who is also the film’s prop master), giving the actor room to interpret his fifth – and best – collaboration with the director. Cheung also excels, with a gentility and elegance that permeates the entire story. Kar-Wai’s next film will be his science fiction debut, 2046, which will feature unused footage from In the Mood for Love and follow the story of Hong Kong’s experiences five decades on from the handover to China.

production details
Hong Kong | 98 minutes | 2000

Director and Writer: Wong-Kar Wai (with quotes from the writing of Liu Yi-Chang)

cast
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai as Chow Mo-Wan
Maggie Cheung as Su Li-Zhen
Rebecca Pan as Mrs. Suen
Kelly Lai Chen as Mr. Ho
Siu Ping-Lam as Ah Ping
Mama Hung as
Joe Cheung as
Koo Kam-Wah as
Chan Man-Lei as
Sunny Sun as
Roy Cheung as Mr. Chan

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