The best love movie of the 21st century
The BBC lists “In the Mood for Love” as the best love film of the 21st century. At the same time, it is a melancholy farewell to Hong Kong. In a fresh 4k restoration, Wong Kar-Wai’s masterpiece about two desperate lovers comes to the cinema again.
When you sometimes have to set out to clear your head, the cinema also gains new momentum when it goes on a journey. Wong Kar-Wai’s films are the best example of this. The European art house had landed on a dead end in the 1980s. Godard got lost in agitprop essays, Fellini had lived out his obsessions, and Antonioni was just getting older.
In Hong Kong, on the other hand, where Wong and his family had moved at the age of five, what had become a cliché in Europe was given new life. In 1988 he stepped onto the scene with “As Tears Go By”. This was followed by what can be called the Wong Kar Wai decade in terms of film history, with masterpieces that combined a dreamy impressionism with an expressionism that exploded in color and form: 1990 “Days of Being Wild”, 1994 “Chungking Express”, 1995 “Fallen Angels ”, 1997“ Happy Together ”and finally in 2000 the coronation:“ In the Mood for Love ”, which the BBC voted the second best film of the 21st century, although it – melancholy underlined by Nat King Cole – like a farewell from the 20th century.
Two people, played by Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, are desperately in love, just not each other – or at least not in the beginning. But where do Wong’s films start and where do they end? His signature, slow motion, can turn on itself at any moment, like one of Maggie Cheung’s gloves, so that a new cosmic feeling gradually sets in that has little to do with that of linear everyday life.
Wong’s films follow dream logics, which you only notice when they are over and so-called reality has arrived. Then you feel a double longing – a longing for that longing that has always characterized the Hong Kong author’s films. Wong’s heroes are eccentric lovers, introverted artist types who happened to become a police officer, stewardess or journalist like Tony Leung in “In the Mood for Love”. They shimmy along the world like an abyss. They never complain and they are always polite. In secret they harbor their burning hearts.
They sleepwalk through life and sometimes encounter a kindred spirit. Almost all of his films follow this principle, which could be called an exaggerated plot. At the same time, they are farewells to the city of his life, the future of which the melancholic Wong clearly foresaw. Even if he consistently spun this metaphor into science fiction in the follow-up film “2046” with the same actors, the quintessence of his work has always remained “In the Mood for Love”, a gentle explosion of red and yellow and broken hearts.
For the 20th (actually 21st) anniversary, the film is now back in the cinemas in a restored 4k version.