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This Wong Kar-wai drama is perhaps the most astoundingly gorgeous (and boring) movie made in the last twenty years....
Criterion / 98 Minutes / 2000 / Rated PG / Street Date: October 2, 2012
Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood For Love is an astoundingly beautiful film to watch - no, to behold. Cinematographer Christopher Doyle - along with the director - has concocted a movie that bristles with visual elegance. The drama at the center of the motion picture may feel stilted and inauthentic (it certainly does for this writer), but the irrepressible photographic majesty of In the Mood For Love is one of a kind.
Ironically, this is what makes watching - and revisiting - In the Mood For Love so frustrating. Even on standard-def DVD, the movie has been visually striking, but on Criterion's new BD edition, it simply pops with technical finesse... only to reveal that the story at the epicenter of its drama is understated and muted to the point of distraction. It could very well be the most gorgeous-looking dumbass story Criterion now has in its ranks.
I hate to sound mean about it - the characters in this poor little movie already have enough problems before cranky reviewers have their say - but the affair (or, more appropriately, desired affair) in In the Mood For Love is neither syrupy nor hushed: it just is, and while many critics find this wind-through-the-sails feeling to be robust and engaging, even after probably four viewings, I can't find it. To me, Wong Kar-wai's movie is a stunningly sumptuous tale of two people who never act upon anything, open up a bit to each other, and then continue to never act upon anything.
But what lovely inaction: Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, as neighbors who grow weary of their respective failed marriages only to find a glimmer in each others' eyes (that they make strident efforts not to acknowledge), walk down beautiful streets in 1960s Hong Kong and dress to the 9s - they occupy Wong Kar-wai's on-screen world with a tender, luminous feel. But where some cineastes find the lost love at the movie's core to be heartbreakingly profound, I continue to label it uncompelling. But if you're reading this review in the first place, it's likely that you already know and love the film, so here's the skinny: boy, does In the Mood For Love look great in high-def.