x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

In the mood for a blockbuster love story

Film school A bluffer's guide to In The Mood For Love.

Tony Leung won Best Actor at the Cannes film festival for his performance here.
Tony Leung won Best Actor at the Cannes film festival for his performance here.

A bluffer's guide to In The Mood For Love.

Wong Kar-Wai has established himself as one of Hong Kong's most renowned auteurs with stylistic lullabies such as Chungking Express, Ashes of Time and Fallen Angels. In the Mood for Love starred Asian superstars Maggie Cheung and the director's muse, Tony Leung. It was the second in a trilogy of romances about Su-Li Zhen, played by Cheung, that also includes Days of Being Wild (1990) and 2046 (2004). The story features two unhappily married neighbours who strike up a friendship to cope with the long absences of their partners.

As with all of the director's films, it is lushly shot with particular emphasis on the colours. The characters, like the director, are from a generation that arrived in Hong Kong from Shanghai in 1949, after the ascendancy of Communism, in a Mandarin-speaking community that had little contact with its Cantonese counterparts. The film hotfoots from their initial meeting in Hong Kong in 1962 to a missed connection in Singapore and ends with the journalist Mr Chow (Leung) telling the secrets of his friendship to a hole in a monument at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Mr Chow and Su-Li Zhen go to a restaurant and eat wonton. The vegetables being served reveal that it is June or July. They are both coy, and on edge. The situation eases when they both realise that they share the same secret and harbour the same doubts about their partners as they talk about handbags and ties.

The actors had no idea what the film was about. There was no script and the director spent 15 months shooting the picture. In that time he cut two stories, one set in a fast-food store, the other about a kidnapping.

Kar-Wai was deeply affected by the music he heard on the radio while growing up in Hong Kong. The literal Chinese title of the movie, The Age of Flowers, derives its name from a song of by Zhou Xuan that featured in a 1946 film. The English title, In the Mood for Love, comes from the Bryan Ferry cover of the Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields song that was published in 1935 and first heard in the movie Every Night at Eight.

The mix of musical styles, ranging from traditional opera to theme songs from popular films of the 1950s, represents the music that people in Hong Kong listened to at the time. Particularly noteworthy are the main love theme, the waltz Yumeji's Theme, and the Spanish Nat King Cole numbers.

The film launched at Cannes 2000, where Tony Leung won the Best Actor prize and a Technical Grand Prize. The film picked up numerous best film awards and grossed $13 million (Dh44m) worldwide.

The film had an immediate impact on directors around the world, most notably Sofia Coppola, who thanked Kar-Wai at the 2005 Oscars and referenced the ending in her film Lost In Translation. In Brokeback Mountain, the song Quizás, Quizás, Quizás, (the Spanish version of Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps, used by Kar-Wai in the film) plays when Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) is in Mexico.

In The Mood For Love is showing at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation at 8pm tomorrow, as part of their Contemporary Chinese cinema season.