You all weren’t kidding about In the Mood for Love. WHEN THE SCORE COMES IN WITH THAT SLO-MO???? BOY I DIE!!!!!!
Absolutely masterpiece level
****strange, wondrous, obliterating
This was one of those movies where Emily and I spent the entire thing exclaiming to each other, in two modes: overwhelmt™, and gasping recognition of how this influenced other filmmakers we love. Because we are sure not the only one seduced by Mr. Wong Kar-wai!
First and foremost has gotta be Barry Jenkins. The COLORS, the compositions, the Romance, the beautiful beautiful actors with wonderful wonderful faces: that’s Barry, baby! Noted Wong Kar-wai superfan (as well as fellow recent Legend of the ‘Log, Claire Denis) (seriously, Jenkins start a film club challenge). I’d also highlight Tarsem’s passion project The Fall, which was what my mind giddily leapt to after the first instance of those strings knocked me sideways—the frame rate felt like it matched the rhythm of The Fall’s opening black & white prologue, that slow motion ballet of movement set to Beethoven’s rapturous Symphony No. 7. Shigeru Umebayashi gives Beets a run for his money with ‘Yumeji’s Theme’, I’ll say it! And then Johnny Greenwood rose toward Umebayashi in turn with his score for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, also with one particular melody repeating throughout the movie, finally in this dark stirring string rendition that was the second thing I thought of as Maggie Cheung waited gracefully for her noodles on a dark street.
We also felt In the Mood for Love’s influence in Todd Haines’ Carol (like a triptych of longing with Brief Encounter, those three are), in the shots framed by windows, all the moments of characters sitting at tables and feeling, an erotic focus on accessories, hotel rooms… I’d even say you can catch glimpses of Wong Kar-wai in Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, again in composition and a set of particular colors repeating like a motif, but perhaps most in how that movie also deliberately withholds two key characters’ faces from ever being seen. Later I would read—and be dumbstruck at how I had not recognized it earlier—that Sofia Coppola cites In the Mood for Love as her biggest influence for Lost In Translation, even thanking Wong Kar-wai in an acceptance speech. The proximal living quarters, the affair-not-affair, the unheard whispered secrets, Sofia yes! And she would use a Roxy Music song in her movie itself, after got his English title inspiration from one of Bryan Ferry’s ballads. (Because apparently everything in my life these days eventually comes up Ferry.)
Oh and! The pulpy paperback writing part of the plot is reminded me so much of that portion of Margaret Atwood’s novel The Blind Assassin. Though that was published the same year In the Mood for Love was released, so that one just seems to be the universe’s classy little coincidence.
Anyway. The fact that you can see where so many other artists took inspiration from this movie, along with its own cultural connections and echoes, speaks to what an incredibly rich work it is, a work placed within an artistic lineage. But it’s also just ravishing entertainment on its own, a captivating, utterly watchable feast that will steal your breath away. This was so good, I am: in awe.