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Cinema Signal:

In the Mood For Love
The movie by Wong Kar Wai
The DVD

. "2046" [Cantonese with English subtitles]

Memory and regret are the themes here, with seduction the driving element. Director Wong Kar-Wai ("In the Mood For Love," "Eros") uses a sci-fi framework for his story of carnal attraction and games of possession and intrigue. The motivations that put womanizing Tony Leung together with the Asian beauty of Zhang Ziyi, Maggie Cheung and Gong Li require no translation.

As Chow Mo Wan, Wong capitalizes on Leung's Cary Grant cool and Errol Flynn sexuality as a figure who, as a writer, looks back to his string of conquests for source material. In the major episode, he turns his next-door neighbor in Room 2046 Bai Ling (Ziyi Zhang) from an almost untouchable object of desire to an embarrasingly emotional mess of need and attention.

This is Hong Kong in the 1960s and Chow is writing a sci-fi epic. He ties together a futuristic train traveling in a space that seems endless to frame the story of his passionate past with all the atmosphere and memories he has, most particularly about the resident in the apartment next door.

When his landlord's daughter Wang Jing Wen (Faye Wong) also takes up a pen, the two collaborate... on all levels. When his mind floats back to Su Li Zhen (Li Gong), a fabulous woman he met and could never touch or forget, he experiences deep regret over a possiblity lost.

Wong's dark, hard-edged mindscape is straight out of Hammett whose noir imagery may have been a theme of emulation. But Wong goes farther on the scale of dames and damsels, plastering his frames with the texture of seductive faces sculpted against the sordid, the shadowy, and the tug of sexual restlessness that the pursuer ultimately loses control over.

The imagery he creates is noirish, set amidst doorways, corridors and thin walls and smokily enhanced with the outstanding work of his cinematographer Christopher Doyle. Costumery, set design, art direction and makeup lend their superb parts of the exquisite visual mosaic but only in support of the faces. Wong's mystique expresses itself most richly with the fascination of Asian beauty.

As a theme and variation, the unity of it is the atmospherics and when the timeline gets a bit confusing, you just wait until you catch up and realize its mood still holds you. This is a romance about dark-edged romance, sometimes skin deep, sometimes throbbing with physical and visual sensation.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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Faye Wong and Tony Leung
As Wang Jing Wen and Chow Mo Wan
Collaboration or foreplay?

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