In The Mood For Love is a Hong Kong film directed by Wong Kar-wai shot primarily in Cantonese and with English subtitles. It stars Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung It was released in 2000 at Cannes and won the award for Best Actor (Tony Leung) as well as being nominated for the Palme d’Or. The film was not a big box office draw, only making $12.8 million dollars worldwide. However, the relatively modest box office receipts did not prevent the film from earning broad critical praise from various groups and publications around the world. So does this widely praised film deserve to be counted among the all time greats and earn the coveted label “classic”?
Should this film be considered a classic? This was a really odd film for me. The story hearkens back to love stories in films from 30s and 40s in how the forbidden love element is handled with far more thought and restraint than most modern films. This, along with the slow and deliberate pacing with an almost claustrophobic focus on the two leads, makes the film feel like it belongs in a different era movie making. The film also has some absolutely stunning cinematography. There are moments when a scene shifts to slow motion and the soundtrack swells in the background that it is impossible to miss the beauty of the scene and the talent behind the camera. Still, I can’t see this film really rising to the level of an all time great. The story of two people who discover their spouses are cheating on them and who subsequently fall for each other is solid fodder for a film but overly slow pacing in spots keeps this film from greatness. The film could easily have been tightened up with 20 minutes of cuts. The deliberate pacing would still be there but it would do away with some scenes that really just lingered way too long.
Would I own this film? I don’t think so. When it comes to Chinese cinema, I really prefer the wuxia stylings of a film like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to a film like this. That said, this film is a beautiful mixture of music and images that is worth watching for the stunning camera work. If only the story had been tightened up a bit I really think this very solid film could easily have been a great film.