“In the Mood for Love”, the ethearal movie directed by Wong Kar-wai in 1999, brings together Su Li-chen (played by Maggie Cheung) and Chow Mo-wan (played by Tony Leung) in 1962 British Hong Kong.

Su Li-chen and Chow Mo-wan, who do not know each other, move in on the same day on the same floor of an old building in Hong Kong, each renting a room with locals. Their respective spouses are often absent for professional reasons, which leaves them alone and lonely.

At first simply courteous to each other, Su Li-chen and Chow Mo-wan grow closer and join their misfortunes when they understand that their spouses are having an adulterous affair.

At first unhappy with the infidelity of their spouses, Su Li-chen and Chow Mo-wan gradually become in love with each other. Will they still live this love story – the weight of social pressure preventing them from doing so?

The film is surprisingly dreamlike, while it takes place in the unsophisticated and unfashionable daily life of Hong Kong, for which Wong Kar-wai has kept a great nostalgia. He indeed lived there as a child, when his parents, fleeing communism, settled there.

From this childhood whose memory remains idyllic, Wong Kar-wai transcribes the promiscuity (but therefore also the human connections), the warm colors (so illustrative of the passions that animate each person, yet so polished), the kind but intrusive gaze of the neighbors (as a perfect symbol of the social pressure that weighs on the protagonists).

Wong Kar-wai’s movie is somewhat impressionist. When it comes to intimacy, Wong Kar-wai’s touch is light and delicate: the feelings are delicately sketched, like an impressionist canvas where a love story is sublimated solely through the interplay of bodies, looks and unspoken words.

“In the Mood for Love” is a slow waltz between two bodies and two souls which graze each other, which seek each other and which avoid each other. As such, the scenes on the narrow stairs where the two bodies twist so as not to brush against each other, even though they most certainly want to, are marvels of geometry and silenced feelings.

This slow waltz is quite hypnotic as we witness the flood of repressed feelings behind the polite and educated faces of Chow Mo-wan and Su Li-chen and (Su will smile only once, but years later since the story takes place over several years).

The societal weight of the 1960s is perhaps – along with Su Li-chen and Chow Mo-wan – the third protagonist of the story.

As such, the situation of Su Li-chen, who wants to be a perfect wife and accomplished woman, is terribly moving. She navigates between the desire for emotional accomplishment and the desire for social achievement. She is sadly lucid about the professional compromises that her position entails (she is the ultra-professional assistant who covers for her boss who has a double love life) and which are the sad mirror of her marital situation.

Su Li-chen is perfect of nobility, education, politeness and professional competence and the very high collars of the qipao dresses she wears give her an absolutely patrician look (and I want all her dresses).

In this respect again, the last scene which sees Chow Mo-wan delivering the secret of his heart to the stones of the Angkor temple is terribly moving and reminds me of a quote by André Malraux: “the truth of a man is first and foremost what he hides”.

One would like to see these two souls in pain find serenity and peace at every second. But that’s where all the charm of “In the Mood for Love” lies: the charm of all that could have been and will never be.

March 17, 2023

Vintage jacket and skirt – Loewe purse embellished by Lucie Monin – Louboutin heels – O’Fée earrings