Although In the Mood for Love isn’t in the mood for action, it dazzles with everything but. As mood goes, this reticent, remembered romance is quietly erotic, probing all those ”almost” spaces in an almost love affair. As cinematography goes, it’s luscious.
Avant garde filmmaker Wong Kar-wai sets his story in 1962, among decorous Shanghainese living close together in a Hong Kong apartment building. Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung, breathtaking in a luxe wardrobe of tight, high collared cheongsam dresses) is usually alone in her rented room because her husband is so often away on business. Dapper Mr. Chow (Tony Leung, who has also appeared with Cheung in two other Wong films including Days of Being Wild), in the flat next door, is similarly abandoned by a traveling wife. And the two beautiful, lonely, faithful, longing adults draw vertiginously closer when they realize their spouses are having an affair.
In some films Wong goes for artful, chopped up, cinematic jazz. Here, working once again with his favorite cinematographer, Australian Christopher Doyle, he cuts, reorders, and pastes slivers of time, moments of being, with a delicious languor, fetishizing the most mundane acts – smoking a cigarette, dining on noodles. With sex in the air, these chaste would be lovers eat. The effect is just this side of frustrating stasis; it’s also as tantalizing as an itch. B+