in the mood for love

On Baphomet’s recommendation, [The guy surely knows his movies] I decided to hop over to Blockbuster on Saturday and picked up this movie of Wong Kar-Wai’s.
My movie reviews are at best extremely personal and hugely subjective. Am no movie critic and have never attempted to be. There are some great reviews out there for a more discerning scene by scene analysis and a technical look at the director’s point of  view. What’s below is a personal take on the movie, story, music. It’s just that.
Set in the 1960’s in Hong Kong, it’s a melancholic romantic tale. A tale of two people thrown together in a strange circumstance of discovering that their respective spouses are having an affair, with each other.
What then happens between them is a soulful tale, as strangers come together sharing common pain, let-down. In the process, they discover happiness in each other, a bond that perhaps only they can share and understand.  One that evolves slowly and lets the viewer through a series of spectacularly done scenes that force us to come your own conclusions on the workings of their inner minds, hearts and the consequences of themselves.
As most well made movies are prone to drawing the viewer within the  story itself, the story line pulls you in; makes you a part of the enactment and somewhere along the line, makes you feel guilty for being a voyeur. To be a fly on the wall and watch the two go through the motions of mundane lifestyles, everyday commonalities, halting conversations, conflicting discoveries, comforting camaraderie, hesitant acceptances, grudging revelations, restrained passions,  moral decisions and ultimately the fear of the unknowns is simply put,  fascinating.
The movie’s in Chinese, and that’s what came home with me. I’ve always enjoyed sub-titles on an original track. Well done ones can translate accurately the emotions and nuances of the original language that mere words can express. This one takes the cake. Some sentences are crafted with such precision, that when dialogs are combined with the actors expressions, the background music and the setting, the effect washes over you in a subtle beginning, only to realize that you have been engulfed as a whole. Scrambling back up for air, you come to terms with the fact that the moment can only be further crowned by a parallel in your own life.
Certain scenes are pivotal in the way the story travels.
The scene in the poster above is a heart-breaking one. Through their discoveries, the two indulge in role-playing. As in each pretends to be the other’s spouse and run through a series of situations on ‘what if’ scenarios.  Along the way, the line blurs between rehearsals and reality. The poster scene is that of him playing the [her] husband and walking away from her after she confronts him of his affair. The viewer falls for the trap. Only when the next shot zooms in, do you realize that with the way her tears come flowing down that perhaps, was there relief, or or maybe grief and if she wanted him to stay or that she preferred if the husband walked away, or came back. Nobody knows. It’s tricky, it’s sad and it’s when your heart skips a beat as empathy for her situation and his beguiling stoic look form a hard dry lump in your throat.
Dialogs are strong, simple and speak the characters minds without any drama and antics. Some fine ones that stuck:
Mrs. Chan: Feelings can creep up just like that.
Mr. Chow: I thought I was in control.
Mrs. Chan: Why did you call me at the office today?
Mr. Chow: I had nothing to do. I wanted to hear your voice.
The sadness on their faces is tangible.
As with most movies based on the theme “art imitates life” – the ending is never a happy walk in the park. There is no firm ending. There are though a myriad un-answered questions
Are they in love?
Do they confront their spouses ultimately?
Do they consummate their relationship?
If so, is there a child?
Why did they decide to move away?
What did Tony whisper in the hole?
many more..
This is where the viewer decides how he continues the story in his mind.
Background music was just not in the background. It brought life and a dimension into the scene, into each character and the story. Plucking of the strings, the piano keys, and the melody, the repetitive scenes with the music, each time with a different timbre, and a higher octave to signify the emotions running under.
Nat King Cole’s Quizas Quizas Quizas was aptly played in certain scenes. The adapted english lyrics say it all:
You won’t admit you love me and so
How am I ever to know
You only tell me
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps
A million times I ask you and then
I ask you over again
You only answer
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps
If you can’t make your mind up
We’ll never get started
And I don’t want to wind up
Being parted, broken hearted
So if you really love me say, “yes”
But if you don’t, dear, confess
And please don’t tell me
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps
If you can’t make your mind up
We’ll never get started
And I don’t want to wind up
Being parted, broken hearted
So if you really love me say, “yes”
But if you don’t, dear, confess
And please don’t tell me
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps
Subtleties that compares our Desi and the Asian community made me smile:

The [small appliances] rice cooker fascination. The over-modest refusals of dinner invitations, the gushing apologies, the conservative talks, awkward sharing of personal space. The renting out rooms reminded me of PG’s in Bombay. The honor system.  Maggie looked amazing in the qipao she wears. Her silhouette in this body-hugging attire along with the expression on her face is a strange combination.

Recommendation: It isn’t a feel-good movie. So if you are in particularly chirpy mood, you may not want to watch it. Nevertheless, it’s a good movie, and well taken. I enjoyed it, despite it making me go all teary in one scene. Pop it in when the house is asleep, cuddle into a cozy comforter and have a tissue ready. You may not bawl, but sniffle you surely will.
Am hoping this is the beginning of my comeback into the genre of movies I’ve always liked and somehow lost my way a bit out there.
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14 replies on “in the mood for love”
  1. Rads rads rads…this is one of the most honest reviews…ever.

    WKW’s films always end up affecting one on a more personal level…my favorite to date is 2046. Deeply moving yet amazingly restrained.

  2. says: bApHoMEt

    I concur with Mr.Prestidigitator above- a very very honest review.

    “ a part of the enactment and somewhere along the line, makes you feel guilty for being a voyeur.”

    “..As in each pretends to be the other’s spouse and run through a series of situations on ‘what if’ scenarios.”

    These two approaches to setting a scene are WKW’s trademarks – the voyeuristic camera and the roleplays.

    I’m so happy that you loved the film Rads. I think it’s The Prestidigitator’s turn to recommend a film next (LOL).

  3. says: Praveen

    Hi..landed up here frm Ferarri’s space… loved the review of the film….btw have u checked out the Iranian films of director Majid Majidi-“Children of Heaven”. “The Color of Paradise”, “Baran” (u’ll love this one).

    Also try and watch this Korean film-“The Way Home”

    Happy Pongal

  4. says: rads

    Praveen: That’s a long list. Thank you! Will file away 🙂

    Pilgrim: Please do. Have a feeling you’d like it 🙂

    SK: It is 🙂

    Prestid, Baph: Coming from you two movie whiz kids, that pretty much makes my day! Thanks 🙂

  5. says: Pri

    i recommend chunking express. two mini stories. the second one has this girl sneaking into her crush’s apt and changing little things that he doesn’t notice at first. very sweet. slightly weird. i think there was even a fish tank with real fish. i don’t remember. this was some 7 years ago. im telling you this because um… we’re discussing chinese movies??

  6. says: Praveen

    Hi Pria…just realised that I have chunking express with me, nevr bothered to watch it so far, its been with me for quite a while, will check it out asap..

    To rads and all: How many of u’ve seen “Lost in Translation”?

  7. Rads, nice review, should add this to my Netflix list. Now that you have a long list of movies to watch, let me add to that list: ‘Eat Drink Man Woman’, ‘Chocalat’. Trust me to name food movies, rt? :p

  8. says: rads

    BPSK: LOL! Netflix it is. Will do 🙂

    terri: Yeah? Sure thing 🙂

    Praveen: *busy scribbling movie names down as fast as Praveen’s rattling them* 😉

    Pri: Chungking’s coming home this Friday. Children, heaven and shoes. Can’t pass that combo up 🙂

  9. says: Pri

    no no the kids and the shoes are the other movie. chunking express is the weird one with the crazy lady who rearranges people’s apartments. watch both.

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