Cannes Classics 2020: The ravishing poetry of Wong Kar-wai’s ‘In the Mood for Love’, which turns 20 this year

Posted on June 27, 2020


Part of this mood is created through Su’s wardrobe. Like unhappy, unfulfilled women in the movies — think of Sridevi in ‘English Vinglish’, in Sabyasachi saris — Su’s not-a-hair-out-of-place look is a facade for the turmoil inside.

One of my favourite film anecdotes has Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich talking about Greta Garbo. The younger filmmaker said, “Isn’t it a pity with all the movies she made, she did only two great ones!” And Welles said, “Well, you only need one.” He should know. He made Citizen Kane. He made many, many movies afterwards, but in a sense, he needn’t have bothered. Had he made Citizen Kane and retired, he’d still be… ORSON WELLES! “Well, you only need one.” In the case of Wong Kar-wai, that one movie would be In the Mood for Love, which turns 20 this year.

You could describe this great film in a number of ways: humanistic, profound, stylistic, melancholic, musical, tragic. But above all, I think it’s a poetic film, and poetry is what the film opens with. We get a prelude: “It is a restless moment. She has kept her head lowered to give him a chance to come closer. But he could not, for lack of courage. She turns and walks away.” What is this “restless moment”? Is it something about the film’s location and timeframe: Hong Kong, from 1962-66? The male protagonist — Chow — is a journalist, after all. He’s presumably covering the “restless moments” of the time.

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