Friday, 16 January 2015

In the Mood for Love (3 Stars)

This Chinese psychological thriller is overbearingly intense with its underplayed emotions. It has much of the atmosphere of film noir, without actually belonging to that genre.

In 1962 two couples move into apartments next door to one another in Hong Kong. Chow Mo-Wan is a pulp fiction author, his wife is a businesswoman with an unspecified job. Su Chan is the secretary for a shipping company, her husband works for a Japanese company. Chow's wife and Su's husband both work long overtime hours, so Chow and Su spend time together. Eventually they come to the conclusion that their spouses, who we never see in the film, are having an affair with one another. Chow and Su deal with the matter by role-playing. First Su pretends to be Chow's wife, serving him as a good Chinese wife. Then Chow pretends to be Su's husband, so that she can practise for the scene where she accuses her husband of infidelity. Then they visit a hotel room together, so that they can pretend to be one another's spouses and see what it's like to keep a secret. At no time do Chow and Su actually have an affair. It's all make-believe, because they don't want to sink to the level of their spouses.

The film teases the viewer. Again and again we think that a romance is developing between the two, but every time we're reminded that it's all a game. I admit that I was confused for the first half hour of the film. Due to the spouses not being shown I thought they might not exist, and that it might just be an elaborate fantasy being played out by Chow and Su. But then Chow's landlord said that he had seen Chow's wife on the street with another man, so it was cleared up for me.

The problems I had understanding the film are the main reason for my relatively low rating. It's possible I shall rate it higher next time I watch it.

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