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Seville Pictures presents
In the Mood for Love (Canadian Version) (2000)

"I thought I was the only one who knew... I wonder how it began?"
- Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung)

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: January 21, 2002

Stars: Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung
Other Stars: Ping Lam Siu, Tung Cho Cheung, Rebecca Pan, Lei Chen
Director: Wong Kar-wai

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and brief language
Run Time: 01h:37m:57s
Release Date: January 22, 2002
Genre: romance


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ AA-B B-

DVD Review

As the soundtrack ponders, "quiz á s, quiz á s, quiz á s", two lovers, Mrs. Chen and Mr. Chow, struggle to come to grips with their feelings for each other in Wong Kar-wai's acclaimed romance, In the Mood for Love. It's an appropriate song, repeated again and again throughout, because this is a film that deals with choices, possibilities, fate, and regret. Kar-wai brings to the screen a heartbreaking romance, full of subtlety, nuance, and desire bubbling just below the surface, equal parts emotional study and visual work of art.

On the same day in 1962, in Hong Kong, Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) and Mrs. Chen (Maggie Cheung) move in next door to each other with their spouses. First their possessions become intermingled, as the moving men confuse what exactly belongs to whom, but their paths soon cross in other ways as well. They begin a tentative friendship out of sheer loneliness, since both of their spouses spend so much time away on business trips abroad. After a time, though, it becomes clear that their mates are actually having an affair, which only serves to drive Mrs. Chen and Mr. Chow closer together.

In the Mood for Love is an incredibly sexy film, but it doesn't involve any sex, explicit or implied. Most films about adultery focus on the two committing the act, which naturally results in quite a few scenes of the couple en déshabillé. Kar-wai is more interested in emotional nakedness, though, and his story is about the building relationship between the two jilted lovers. Chen and Chow's emotions are always below the surface. They play at pretending to be each other's partner, imagining how the adulterous relationship started, but the playacting is really just a charade, a cover for their own burgeoning, unspoken passion.

Much of In the Mood for Love is about what goes unsaid. Nothing is made blatant; Kar-wai, Cheung, and Leung all keep emotion at a sub textual level, underplay the passion and pain. Much is done through subtle imagery: brief touches, hesitant glances, lingering scenes that capture the awkwardness and tension between the characters. Kar-wai favors richly composed images; the film bursts with lush, saturated colors, forlorn, rain-soaked streets, and sad, constrictive living quarters. The visuals capture the emotional fragility and distance of the lovers without being too overt or obvious.

Much praise goes to Cheung and Leung, two Hong Kong superstars who give wonderful performances (particularly Leung, who picked up best actor at Cannés for the role). Cheung wonderfully captures the complexity of Mrs. Chen. Her stately grace is always evident, as she carries herself beautifully in her array of ornate, Oriental clothing, but there's always a sadness underneath; I get the impression that her elaborate dress is her way of putting on a mask to cover emotional turmoil, and Cheung captures this wordlessly. Leung does likewise; Mr. Chow also presents a poised appearance and demeanor, but carries with him sadness and humiliation evident to anyone looking closely enough.

This is a film with the potential to alienate a lot of audience members. Rather than a flashy, American action film, this is a reserved Chinese film of inaction, as two characters struggle to allow themselves to grasp the opportunities for happiness that are right in front of them.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Not a perfect image, but one that is very film-like: that's how I'd describe the transfer on this disc. Colors are unbelievably rich, lush, and saturated, and DVD captures the deep reds and blues in a way that VHS could not. Black level is likewise strong, with excellent shadow detail in the darker scenes (and there are quite a few). Film grain is present, but doesn't distract; in fact, I feel that sometimes, light grain can add to the mood of the film. My only real beef is with some print damage, including one visible "cigarette burn." Very nice looking, though, and apparently the same transfer used for the upcoming Criterion release.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Cantoneseno


Audio Transfer Review: The DD 2.0 mix certainly adequately presents the audio materials, but this dialogue based drama doesn't rely on flashy sound effects to create atmosphere. Dialogue is anchored in the center channel and sounds clear enough (it is, of course, in Cantonese, so it is hard for me to tell). The haunting score fills out the front soundstage nicely, and sounds well supported and rich. Surrounds are mute throughout, except for some brief, infrequent support for the score and ambient noise (like rain).

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Chinese Box; Eat, Drink, Man, Woman; Three Seasons
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. The World of In the Mood for Love
  2. International Awards
  3. Animated Photo Gallery
Extras Review: Though not loaded with extras, Seville Pictures has managed to scrape together some decent extras for this release. Starting things off is a 19-minute making-of featurette, with comments from the director and stars. There is some good information here about the long shooting schedule and how the actors got involved, but it's interspersed among far to many lengthy film clips. I was, however, surprised by how well all three interviewees can speak English. Cheung and Leung barely have accents! The video quality for this segment is also rather poor.

The World of In the Mood for Love is a text extra that provides information about the creation of the period feel of the film. They are brief, but interesting, and the sections cover the costume design, hairstyling, and food. Other text extras include bios and filmographies for the leads and director and a list of awards the film has won.

Four theatrical trailers are provided, one for in the Mood for Love (with the effective musical accompaniment, Brian Ferry's In the Mood for Love, which is revealed, in the making-of, to have been the inspiration for the American title... wonder what the literal translation is?); along with clips for Chinese Box; Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (available March 5th from MGM, highly recommended); and Three Seasons.

Finally, there's an animated still gallery set to the score that runs about two minutes. The film is presented in the original Cantonese only, with optional English and French subtitles.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Wong Kar-wai has created, with In the Mood for Love, an exquisite romantic masterpiece that is equally visually breathtaking and emotionally resonate. Certainly a suitable choice for the lauded Criterion Collection, and fans unable to procure this Canadian-only release will be happy to know that Criterion will be releasing a two-disc special edition in February. That said, this disc certainly has it where it counts.

 


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