The setting: 1960s Hong Kong. On the same afternoon, Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) and Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) move into rooms they’ve rented in neighboring apartments. Their respective spouses are always working late, or are out of town on business. It doesn’t take the two very long to realize that their spouses are having an affair with each other. This realization bonds the two together, until, perhaps, they are falling in love themselves.
There. That’s all there is to it. Hardly anything happens in In the Mood For Love… just the type of film to make my brother Tom run screaming for the exit. In fact, the movie poster shows more action than is ever even implied on screen.
The gorgeous thing about In the Mood For Love is that it’s all about that: mood. There is very little dialogue, and the cinematography bathes the scenes in golds and reds. Maggie Cheung wears a never-ending palate of hourglass-fitting, high-necked dresses of the era, and as she walks down the dimly lit hallways (in cinematographer Christopher Doyle’s trademark slow-motion), her swaying hips can’t hide the loneliness in her posture. Quietly handsome Tony Leung (who won Best Actor at Cannes for this role), speaks volumes with a distant pensive look through swirling cigarette smoke.
The suppression of the two characters’ feelings, the lack of words, and the aching for embraces is twice as sexy than if the two started ripping off each other’s finely tailored clothes halfway through the movie. Instead, the viewers’ attention is focused on a lingering hand on a doorframe, or a reflection in a mirror. The overall dreamlike atmosphere and feeling of In the Mood For Love will stay with you long after the film ends.