jack’s review published on Letterboxd:
Films have this magical quality that transfix us. I feel we're never going to fully understand why Cinema is such a profound and life changing experience; you ask a different person and you'll get a different answer, an answer that pertains to their specific beliefs on what Cinema is. You ask a person who occasionally attends the populist culture films, they'll say that films are supposed to entertain. You ask someone who studies film, they'll say that films are supposed to express creation, cause discussion, and affect their audience in either an emotional, intellectual, or physical way.
I would suppose I fall into the latter category, even though I beeline Cinema can (and will) entertain the audience without providing an emotional and intellect; it's just that I prefer to view films that impact me deeper than that. Why, you may ask? The answers are bountiful, but I feel as though the answer is a personal one: I've always had trouble expressing my emotions. Films, for me, allow me to relate and express to things that I didn't know I could. Films, for me, allow me to remember the past --whether good or bad-- and reflect. Films allow me to cope with events that have affected me. Films teach me things no person could. To say I owe my life to Cinema is an understatement: Without films, I cannot function.
It's films like "In the Mood for Love" that help me express myself. "In the Mood for Love" is arguably the defining romantic drama of the 21st Century. It is a film that reflects on missed opportunities, repressed love, and regrets; Wong Kar-wai has been one of my favorite filmmakers for about a year, when I first started exploring his films, and each of his films are transcendent experiences. Very few filmmakers are able to peer into my soul and relate to me like Wong Kar-wai's Cinema does; his dreamlike frenzy and kinetics camerawork has always appealed to me. "In the Mood for Love" has all of these capabilities: The camerawork, the frenzy, the kinetic, and the soul gazing.
Wong Kar-wai focus his lens in the 1960's, where two neighbors (Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung) meet. Brief altercations are shown in order to develop their relationship; she goes to get noodles, he's coming back from the noodle stand. She's walking into her apartment, he's walking out of his. Little glances, simple smiles at each other to initiate their neighborly politeness. Their spouses are shown, but never in frame --blurred out, voices only, or hiding behind something. Kar-wai's mission is clear from the get go, but it doesn't make it any less effective: He's wanting us to infer love. But with who, two married people? We learn that Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow's husband and wife are cheating on them with one another; they've run off to Japan for a vacation. Then, the film begins.
Kar-wai shows restraint in "In the Mood for Love," something that differs from his previous works like "Chungking Express" or "Fallen Angels," two films with chaotic styles to them. This is Kar-wai's romanticism that he's hinted in previous works (most notedly "Happy Together") on full blast; he lingers on the intimacy between Su and Chow, the impalpable tension between the two as their growing attraction reaches extraordinary levels. They fall into each other to cope with their spouses' treachery, but their attraction grows. But they refuse each other, in order to not stoop to their spouses' level. But even then, they find that they cannot contain themselves. So they separate, not without their attempts to get together and finally start their love. Love isn't that blissful, like the romantic comedies, it hurts and it's as real as it gets. One waits for the other and leaves just as the other is racing to their spot. One passes a door while the other is behind it. These are the fleeting moments, those chances we've missed. Their love has missed several opportunities and chances. Wong Kar-wai repeatedly stabs us, and here, he's twisting the knife.
Do you ever think of the chances you've missed? Maybe it's a chance at happiness with your dream partner, one that didn't flourish until it was too late. Maybe you'll remember the times you missed a chance at a career opportunity. Or maybe you'll remember the time you and a former friend had a falling out? How would we approach these things? Would we be frustrated? Will we laugh? Would we tear up? We'll probably have different reactions, don't you think? Wong Kar-wai doesn't have the answer, but "In the Mood for Love" operates as the guide to the answer. It doesn't hold anything back, nor do we expect it to. It is a film so real --for you and for me-- that when it's over, you'd swear you just finish a home video or something. But it's not. And just like that, we snap back into reality, time ticking away.