Bar none, this is the most romantic motion picture I've ever seen. No big surprise, considering it's the latest from writer/director/producer Wong Kar Wai, who has proven adept at capturing the essence of heartbreak in his previous films (especially Chungking Express and Fallen Angels). But this film shines as the culmination of his work: as sophisticated and moody as, yet far more approachable than, his earlier films.
Wong keeps his story simple: Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan (played by Hong Kong superstars Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Maggie Cheung, both Wong favorites) are two married people who move next door to each other in a noisy apartment building in 1962 Hong Kong. Each barely acknowledges the other's existence until they separately discover that their spouses (who are never shown on camera) are having an affair.
That a friendship, and then love, will grow between Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan seems inevitable. But will they live happily ever after? Probably in Hollywood, but not necessarily in Wong Kar Wai's city of lost souls. Which, the director seems to say, isn't even the point. For who wouldn't deny, deep down, that longing for somebody is far more romantic than actually having them? In the Mood for Love offers you an hour and a half of that longing – beautiful, painful, suspenseful, and real.
The two stars are excellent, Michael Galasso's spare, Latin-tinged score is hypnotic, and the cinematography by Wong's longtime collaborator Christopher Doyle is as rich and saturated as ever. (Rumor has it that Doyle was once infatuated with star Cheung; if so, it shows, for he lights her beautifully and his camera is virtually obsessed with her figure – not to mention her endless array of fabulous period dresses.) I couldn't recommend the atmospheric In the Mood for Love any higher. If you've missed Wong Kar Wai's previous films, this is a dreamy introduction to his work.