Fa yeung nih wah
Mandarin: Hua yang nian hua
English: The Age of Flowers
Tony Leung Chiu-wai appears in the final minutes of Wong Kar-wai's DAYS OF
BEING WILD as part of a bit designed to set up a sequel. As the film was poorly
received by audiences, it has yet to be produced but Wong's IN THE MOOD FOR
LOVE can be considered a companion piece. The director has stated that he
regards MOOD as another chapter of DAYS and, in fact, Maggie Cheung's character
in this later film, Su Li-zhen, shares the same name and could theoretically
be that girl a few years later. Might Tony Leung's handsome, unnamed stranger
also be the character he plays here?
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE opens in 1962 Hong Kong. Secretary Su Li-zhen (Cheung)
and newspaper man Chow Mo-wan (Leung, who won the Best Actor prize at Cannes)
have rented neighboring rooms in a building owned by the nosy Mrs. Suen (Rebecca
Pan Di-hua) that is also occupied by her transplanted Shanghainese friends.
Li-zhen and Mo-wan often pass in the hall and, occasionally, in the street,
greeting each other politely and engaging in superficial small talk. However,
it gradually becomes apparent to both of them that their mates (played by
Paulyn Suen Kai-kwun and Roy Cheung Yiu-yeung, who are heard but never clearly
seen) are having an affair...with each other. This draws Li-zhen and Mo-wan
closer and, after a while, they even pretend to be their respective spouses,
rehearsing confrontations that may never come to pass. While their attraction
is genuine, each is hesitant to pursue their own affair and this reluctance
is exacerbated by social convention and the ever-prying eyes of Mrs. Suen.
If that synopsis seems rather brusque, it is simply because IN THE MOOD FOR
LOVE is, like most of this director's work, more concerned with character
and effect than narrative. Dispensing with the voiceover narration this time,
Wong creates a mood entirely through imagery, editorial rhythm and musical
motifs (like the repeated use of a mournful string piece and the Spanish Nat
"King" Cole song "Quizas, Quizas, Quizas" ["Perhaps,
Perhaps, Perhaps"]) that gradually becomes hypnotic. Receptive viewers
will be carried along in this almost narcotic-like haze that is as much a
familiar and integral part of a Wong Kar-wai movie as the masterful cinematography
and art direction. As befitting a love story that is never consummated in
the traditional sense, MOOD emerges the director's most tender and restrained
work to date. The majority of Li-zhen and Mo-wan's time together unfolds in
confined spaces (rooms, hallways, alleys) with the camera positioned in a
way that makes the viewer a secret observer sharing these private moments
(although we do so in an assenting, rather than voyeuristic, mien, Wong is
also reminding us of how little privacy these two have). As is his practice,
the camera stays on the captivatingly beautiful leads for "unnatural"
periods of time, allowing us to absorb the subtlest expressions of emotion
on their faces, thus communicating volumes while seemingly imparting little
or nothing (Cheung is particularly adept at this and manages to top what she
accomplished in her celebrated ASHES OF TIME cameo). The film is a masterful
exercise in subtle technique: sexy without being openly sexual, eloquent without
being obvious, beautiful without being overpowering, and dream-like without
ever leaving the realm of possibility.
Cover art courtesy Criterion.
#CC1580D (U.S. Label)
Dolby Digital 2.0 & 5.0
Mixed Language Track (Sync Sound)
Optional English Subtitles
Enhanced for 16:9 Displays
Coded for ALL Regions
Contains mature themes but no objectionable material
menu for Disc One courtesy Criterion.
DVD menu for Disc Two courtesy Criterion.
BOARD RATINGS AND CONSUMER ADVICE
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (which was also awarded the Grand
Prix de la Technique prize at Cannes) was started by Christopher Doyle but,
as the shoot dragged on and on, he had to leave because of other commitments
and was replaced by celebrated Taiwanese DP, Mark Li Ping-bing (EIGHTEEN SPRINGS,
FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI). The compositions are formal, with beautifully balanced
colors and contrasts, eschewing the makeshift experimental extremes Doyle
tended to favor, and a movie this meticulously designed requires a very attentive
transfer. Fortunately, Criterion has delivered a 16:9 presentation that is
stunning in its clarity and richness. The colors in the 1.80:1 transfer are
gorgeous: reds are deep but never bleed from their boundaries, flesh tones
are spot on, and the remaining hues are distinctively separated. Blacks are
deep and uncompromised and contrasts are vivid. The image is remarkably detailed;
even the age and weather-related wear adorning the exterior walls of buildings
looks textured. Any flaws the source material contained have been digitally
removed and edges remain stable throughout. Some vertical jitter is apparent
in two scenes but that looks to be a production fault. The film was originally
mixed in standard Dolby Stereo and that track is available, along with a 5.0
option, and an isolated music and effects track in 2.0. Only one previous
Wong film was mixed in Dolby (HAPPY TOGETHER) and it had virtually no stereo
effects whatsoever. This time, the director really uses the process to great
advantage. The soundscape is subtle but impressive, with excellent high/low
range and a superb delivery of the various musical pieces; dialogue is crisp
and immediate. Rear channels are used sparingly to provide atmospheric effects,
like rain and street noise, but they are enveloping and effective just the
same. There is a smoothly executed layer change at 42:24.
British Columbia: PG
Great Britain: PG
Hong Kong: IIA
United States: PG (Thematic Elements and Brief Language)
Paulyn Sun. Image courtesy Criterion.
addition to the feature, four deleted scenes (presented in non-anamorphic
1.80:1 and mono) totalling 32 minutes are included, three of them available
with optional director commentary in Cantonese with removable subtitles.
Of primary interest is a coda set in the 1970s, featuring Paulyn Suen
(seen most recently in Takashi Miike's outrageous ICHI THE KILLER, where
she is billed under her new English name, Alien Sun) as Mo-wan's wife.
She knows of his past dalliances with Li-zhen and intentionally puts
Mo-wan on the spot by taking him to Mrs. Suen's building.
says very little on the track and does not elaborate at all on why the
sequences were dropped, not surprising really when one considers the
oblique way he approaches each project. The director does provide some
information about subjects like the locations and one of the gorgeous
cheongsams worn by Maggie Cheung but never in much depth. Given how
sparse and indirect his comments are, one is less disappointed that
Criterion was unable to get him to sit for a talk during the feature.
Wong Kar-wai from interview segment. Image courtesy Criterion.
From Hua yang de nian hua. Image courtesy Criterion.
company has also included HUA YANG DE NIAN HUA, a fascinating 2m 28s
montage of images Wong pulled from a number of vintage Chinese features,
most of which were considered lost until some nitrate prints were discovered
in a California warehouse during the 1990s. Focusing on the popular
actresses of the time, the short's lovely vintage costumes and imagery
perfectly compliment the look and feel of the main feature. Unfortunately,
the transfer (provided to Criterion by Wong's company, Block 2 Pictures)
is framed too tightly on top, bisecting a number of heads. An essay
on the score is also available (with direct chapter access to the cues
under discussion), along with brief notes from Wong and composer Michael
Tony Leung (left) and Maggie Cheung (right) from their interview segments.
Images courtesy Criterion.
But that is merely the start: a second dual layer
disc has been included that offers a multitude of additional supplements.
"@In the Mood for Love" (51m 6s) is an absorbing look at the origins
of the project, which began as "Summer In Beijing" with a more
overtly erotic tone and went, in time-honored Wong Kar-wai fashion, through
several evolutions. We are shown this via tantalizing excerpts from a number
of scenes that did not make the final cut (in particular, a wonderful bit
where the two characters do the Twist which was simply too lighthearted
to remain in the movie). Leung and Cheung discuss how they dealt with Wong's
extremely abstract style of direction and storytelling, and we are also
shown bits from the film's premieres at various festivals. "Interviews
With Wong Kar-wai" consists of two segments (22m 12s and 15m 47s respectively)
in which the director elaborates (in English) on such topics as the turns
the project took (there was originally to
have been two other stories) his thinking in regards to the characters and
atmosphere, how films by directors like Seijun Suzuki, Robert Bresson, and
Michelangelo Antonioni influenced his thinking, and the problems the Asian
Financial Crisis had on the production.
thick booklet tucked inside the keep case offers the
Liu Yi-chang short story that inspired the film, liner notes by Li Cheuk-to,
and a guide to the 27 chapters encoded for the feature (as per usual with
Criterion, the extras are also chaptered and indexed). The one complaint in
regards to this entire release is that the font used for the text sections
can be a bit hard on the eyes, depending upon the size of your monitor. That
said, Criterion has assembled the sort of reverent package and presentation
that devotees of Wong Kar-wai (and Hong Kong cinema, in general) are rarely
Maggie Cheung from The Toronto International Film Festival Press Conference
segment. Image courtesy Criterion.
Toronto International Film Festival Press Conference" (43m 28s)
was taped right after the film's screening there in September of 2000,
with Cheung and Leung fielding fairly basic questions from moderator
Robert Gray and several reporters. A lot of information that was covered
in earlier supplements is repeated here and the program has only modest
value, aside from providing fans of the two stars with a chance to hear
them speaking English in an informal, contemporary setting. A promotional
section features various TV spots, trailers, and posters from France,
Hong Kong, and the U.S., some unused art and concepts, plus the movie's
electronic press kit (18m 16s).
Rounding out the platter are text supplements
consisting of an essay on 1960s Hong Kong illustrated with images from
the movie, a similarly designed section devoted to Wong, and detailed
cast and crew bios. A
problems printing this review with Netscape?
Go to the File option in the Netscape
Task Bar, click the Page Setup from
the sub-menu and make sure that in the Page Options
listings, the Black Text box is clicked.
This should resolve the "no text" printing problem.
here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography
© John Charles 2000 - 2002. All Rights Reserved.