In the Mood for Love (Blu-ray)
Directed by Wong Kar-wai
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 98 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Cantonese/Shanghainese
MSRP: $ 39.95
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Review Date: October 3, 2012
Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) and Chiu-wai Su Li-zhen, also known as Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung), with their respective spouses move into adjoining rooms in a Hong Kong house on the same day in 1962. All four adults are very busy people and are often away from home for extended periods, but it eventually becomes clear that Mrs. Chow and Mr. Chan are having an affair during their lengthy absences from home. Chow and Mrs. Chan commiserate with each other and grow closer sharing an interest in food and martial arts serials (they even collaborate on writing one together that is very successful). The two are drawn to one another but don’t want to follow their respective spouses into a similar affair even though Chow definitely would be up for such an arrangement.
Imagine a dramatic romance without any sex or even any overt kissing. That’s In the Mood for Love, and yet the film feels romantic to its core with its aching glances and scores of missed opportunities for the couple to consummate their feelings for one another. Wong Kar-wai uses some very unusual camera placements for the movie: he often shoots from low angles around corners where we don’t get a full shot of the people in the scene. The camera occasionally moves laterally, but the compositions are usually fairly static and formalized, all suggestive of the internal restrictions these two people are placing on themselves not to fall into the same trap as their loved ones. Cleverly, Wong Kar-wai never shows us the cheating spouses; we occasionally hear one or the other in another room or from behind a doorway, but we never see them at all thus keeping our strong identification with the central couple throughout the movie. The open door camaraderie of the era is beautifully represented in the film as neighbors cook for one another and butt into each other’s business without causing offense, and period music by Nat King Cole increases the style and feel of that era. The two ending sequences seem a bit rushed and don't fit comfortably within the rigors of the rest of the film, but they're small missteps.
Tony Leung (who won the Cannes Best Actor award for his performance) and Maggie Cheung give deeply felt performances of great stillness increasing the audience’s awareness of their longing for one another through facial expressions, glances, occasional touches, and their general body language. By the end, the feelings of loss and regret are so keen that a viewer may be even more perturbed by the state of things than the characters are (the film covers about four years). Chow’s best friend Ping is overplayed by Siu Ping-lam (he was the film’s props master and had never acted before). Rebecca Pan is delightful as the landlady of the house while Lai Chin sternly plays Mrs. Chan’s employer Mr. Ho, a man having his own extramarital affair that she must help him keep secret.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1 is faithfully rendered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. This gorgeous reference transfer excels in every way possible: sharpness which allows the viewer to examine the beautiful period clothes and hairstyles in great detail, color saturation levels which render reds and greens especially vividly but never to the point of blooming, and clarity with no evidence of dirt or other age-related anomalies. Flesh tones are very appealing and consistently presented. Black levels often blend into the pillarbox bars emphasizing their depth and richness. The white subtitles are very easy to read. The film has been divided into 27 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix only spreads through the fronts and rears during a couple of thundering rainstorms present in the movie. Otherwise, the mix seems a bit directed toward the fronts with the original music by Michael Galasso and the period standards by some Asian artists as well as Nat King Cole only getting a stereo treatment through the mix. Dialogue has been placed in the center channel.
Unless otherwise noted, the video features are presented in 1080i.
A making of documentary runs 51 ¼ minutes and is quite an eye-opening experience showing early deleted scenes that show quite a different film being made at the beginning of production. (The director does not work from a script but improvises each day’s work on the set.) The 15-month shooting schedule is covered by the director and stars with additional comments from Siu Ping-lam as he struggles to act before the camera for the first time. The documentary also covers the international acclaim that greeted the movie as its premiered all around the world with its director and stars.
There are four deleted sequences which must be viewed individually and which run 8, 8 ¼, 9, and 7 ¾-minutes each. The latter two sequences which would have taken the characters into the 1970s were very wisely deleted by the director.
Hua yang de nian hua is a short film made in 2000 by director Wong Kar-wai piecing together bits of discovered Chinese films cut to the title song of the film. It runs 2 ½ minutes.
Two interviews with director Wong Kar-wai were filmed at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. In one he discusses working with the actors in making this film and some of his earlier work in a piece that runs 22 ¼ minutes. A second one finds him in conversation with director Gilles Ciment as he discusses his working techniques for 16 minutes.
A press conference at the 2000 Toronto Film Festival has the two stars Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung fielding questions from moderator Robert Gray and participating in a question-and-answer session with the press. This runs 43 ½ minutes.
“On In the Mood for Love” has Asian film expert Tony Rayns going into detail with the lengthy shooting schedule of the film and its changes of tone as the work developed. This 23 ¾-minute video essay is in 1080p.
Tony Rayns also discusses the music soundtrack of the movie detailing the use of period tunes and the orchestral pieces used as background music in an 8-minute essay in 1080p.
There are TV spots (1 ½ minutes each) and trailers (3 ¼ minutes each) for the Hong Kong, U.S. and French markets.
The enclosed 45-page booklet contains a cast and crew list, a few color stills from the movie, author Steve Erickson's glowing appreciation for the film, and “Intersection,” the tragic short story which was the inspiration for the director’s plot for the movie.
The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc and the title of the chapter you’re now in. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.
4.5/5 (not an average)
A beautiful and haunting film of a potential love affair simmering on the cusp of consummation, In the Mood for Love offers reference video and such a cornucopia of bonus features that a viewer can happily spend days devouring it all. Highly recommended!