[My list of favorite films released in 2010 will be going up on Row Three in mid-January, so I want to do something a bit different here. This series will include any films I saw for the first time this year and loved, regardless of release date. It may also include films from this year.]
People have been telling me to see In the Mood for Love for ages, and I wanted to see it (especially after seeing Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express, which made the top of my favorites list last year), but didn’t get around to it until a few months ago. Once in a while I see a film and I get a very profound sense of attachment – something deeper than just enjoyment or even love – and I felt that stronger with In the Mood for Love than I’ve felt it in a long time. I can’t even say that I got everything out of the film, but I immediately knew that I will have a life-long relationship with this film. I will rewatch it often, allowing it to reveal new insights and truths to me over the years as I come to it at different points in my life. I will grow old with this film.
It’s difficult to explain exactly what about the film gives me that feeling, but it’s undeniable. The story – almost more of a premise or a situation, though that word gives the wrong impression – follows two couples who move into adjacent apartments at about the same time. The husband of one couple and the wife of the other both travel often for work, leaving their spouses home alone for days sometimes. Over time, those left behind begin spending time together. But what sounds like the beginnings of a sordid, adulterous love affair instead becomes an intensely moving but wholly chaste expression of a love that’s far deeper than physicality.
The film is so subtle and languidly paced, and plays so much on mood rather than action that you may not even be sure at first what is going on, but the film sweeps you along with it anyway. The use of color and oblique camera angles is incredible – noticeable but never overpowering or self-aggrandizing, always playing into the overall mood of the film. It’s distant in the way it depicts the relationship, never pushing in on the characters or invoking any sentimentality or unearned emotion, but never cold or calculating. Instead, the very distance becomes part of the heartbreak.