Quizás, Quizás, Quizás: Wong Kar Wai’s “In the Mood for Love” (2000) #ThrowbackThursday

 

 

Produced, directed and written by Wong Kar Wai.

Starring: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung

  • Languages: In Cantonese, Shanghainese, Spanish (music), and French (with English subtitles available).

Intro: This Wong Kar Wai film is a throwback not in the number of years that have passed since its premiere, but rather in the time frame of its story line. Beginning in the Hong Kong of 1960, the story progresses to 1966 in its final scene in Cambodia.

Plot Summary: In 1960, two married, middle-class couples move into rented rooms in adjoining flats in a Hong Kong apartment building. Mr. Chow (Leung), the husband in one couple, suspects that his wife is having an affair; Mrs. Chan (Cheung), the wife in the other couple, that her husband has a mistress. Chow’s wife and Chan’s husband both frequently travel to Japan on business trips. Eventually, Chow and Chan put two and two together and come to the realization that their spouses are seeing each other. They decide to “rehearse” how their spouses might have met and what they do together. Although Chow and Chan determine that they will not “become like them,” acting out the roles of lovers puts them “in the mood for love.” Will they be able to resist the temptation? Quizás, quizás, quizás.

Commentary: The Spanish line just quoted comes from a famous period piece that was composed by Cuban songwriter Osvaldo Farrés (and popularized in the United States by Nat King Cole, whose version is used in the movie). This song is just one example of the brilliantly-chosen musical selections that are used in this film’s soundtrack. The song symbolizes the growing emotional and sexual tension between Leung and Cheung’s characters, which grows so great that it brings both of them to tears. Yet Wong’s cinematic skills are such that he does not have one sex scene in the movie. Physical contact between the two leading actors is fleeting and subtle. Their facial expressions and body language communicate as much as their dialogue. Wong’s artistry shows up in many other touches. For example, when either of the cheating spouses appears in a scene, s/he is shot from behind or stands out-of-frame. The viewer never sees their faces.

Another fascinating aspect of this film is the way it captures the geography, both physical and social, of Hong Kong in the 1960’s. There is a particularly funny scene in which Chow and Chan are trapped in his room, where they are working on a martial arts serial that they have decided to write — to sublimate their desires, one presumes. Outside in the dining room, there is a loud, marathon mahjong party that Chow’s Shanghainese landlady, Mrs. Suen (Rebecca Pan), has started with the neighbors.

In 2004, Wong released a sequel to In the Mood for Love. Titled 2046, it stars Leung, Ziyi Zhang, and Faye Wong. It is a futuristic movie that is a sequel more in conceptual than in narrative terms.

Film Facts (from IMDB):