Outstreched arm

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Not really in the mood

Ah, subjectivity. Such is the human condition that we will forever disagree on the value of things even after we've separated truths from lies. It's not necessarily a bad thing, either - I'd rather not live inside a Gap ad.

Kar Wai Wong's In The Mood for Love is a much-loved poetic tale of platonic romance in 1960s Hong Kong. Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan discover that their spouses have been cheating on them with each other and form an uneasy bond around this revelation. They fall for each other eventually, though their relationship never quite takes off. They merely share secret moments.

I'm not an unromantic chap, nor am I bothered by slow, randomly-stringed cinema. Antonioni's L'Eclisse, a much slower, longer, more frustrating "relationship movie" is a favorite of mine, and I really enjoyed Eyes Wide Shut. Oh, Brokeback Mountain is my favorite movie of 2005, remember? I'm defending myself in advance because I'm uncomfortable with what I have to say about In The Mood for Love: I don't think it's all that.

My discomfort is caused by the fact that I dislike (or simply find somewhat unconvincing) the very elements fans of this movie are amazed by - the performances, the visuals, its romantic chemistry. It's not that these are bad--they just have problems that appear obvious to me, though this is where subjectivity will assure that those who disagree with me to point out that they like exactly what I don't. For example: the acting is decent, but rather limited in range. Both our leads are nostalgic, pondering milquetoasts, and the script rarely throws any conflict their way. This isn't a bad thing, see, but it's a weak thing. It is difficult for me to follow the emotional development of, say, Mr. Chow, as he wears the same shy, polite wonder on his face from the first scene to the last.

Much has been made of Christopher Doyle and Pin Bing Lee's cinematography, and I'll agree that many of the scenes are staged and lit beautifully. But many are also sophomoric, such as the bouncing pan between our pining leads in their separate rooms, divided by a physical (and... social) wall both of them are trying to dig through. I may also be the only person who was getting quite annoyed by these pans by the end; sometimes they reveal things, other times they don't. Not the most fascinating cinematic game I've played. The chief problem with the visuals, however, is that between the dusky yellow lighting, the constant close-ups, and the lack of exterior settings, I felt claustrophobic, edgy; let's just say it didn't put me in the mood for love.

Nitpicking, all of it so far, if only the romance was irresistible. For li'l old me, it wasn't. Maybe it's that we never see any real highs or lows; maybe it's that I was too busy looking at the cool 60s patterns (but hey, they're occupying much of the screen much of the time). I was honestly just never drawn into the world of Mr. and Mrs. Average. If you were, that's awesome, and I apologize for ranting about a piece of art you must have a real relationship with (I'm simply assuming, from my own experience, that this is how it works with the fans of this type of film.) There are many scenes I enjoy here, and it's all quite skillfully crafted. Sadly, I have to leave it at that.

There are 1 Comments:

Anonymous louise said...

I think your reaction is the way a lot of people feel about all of Wong Kar Wai's work.

He's not one of those people you 'either love or hate' exactly, but people either do love him or don't quite get the fuss about him.

personally i loved the film, and i really loved chungking express too (which i know you didn't care too much for). i do like leung and cheng a lot as actors though. the first time i saw the movie was without subtitles and lynn making a half-assed attempt to explain what was going on. i remember absolutely loving the costumes maggie cheng wore in it. perhaps i'm a bit shallow about the films i like, lol

happy together would make a nice companion to brokeback mountain, should you feel like giving another one of his movies a try...

3:51 PM  

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