Hong Kong, 1962. Mr. Chow, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, and Mrs. Chan, Maggie Cheung are neighbors in a noisy Hong Kong apartment building. Their spouses work late, or are out of town a lot so naturally they start spending time with each other. It becomes painfully obvious to them that their spouses are having an affair. Saddened, but self-righteous, they vow not to be like their cheatin’ spouses. They never consummate their love for each other, just luxuriate in the sexual tension.
I think this is Wong Kar-Wai‘s best film. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a plot. With music I love a great hook and melody, too. I guess I’m a traditionalist. The story moves slowly, deliberately, to its unrequited end.
It’s beautifully, cleverly shot by oft-imitated, hugely influential Christopher Doyle (who also had a mad crush on Maggie Cheung.) Atmospheric without being indulgent. OK maybe a few cliches like, slow mo shots of the rain, and billowing smoke. But with him behind the camera, it feels fresh. Many shots from behind objects, around corners, through windows, over shoulders, as if we’re spying on them. Gives their relationship an illicit feel.
But let’s talk about the clothes! My God watching Maggie Cheung makes me wanna diet. She’s so tall and slim, everything looks divine on her. And let’s not leave out Tong Leung. First of all, what a handsome guy. And second of all, putting him in the 60’s suits and ties really does it for me. This was the “Mad Men” look more than a decade before “Mad Men” with a dash of Hong Kong flavor.
They cross paths, avert their eyes. Violins sing longingly in the background. Nat King Cole croons in Spanish, gives it a European feel. The music sounds romantic, sultry when they’re together, plaintive and melancholy when only one of them is seen. The instrumental music also reminds me of the music in “Room with a View” when Lucy, Charlotte and Ms. Lavish walk around Florence. Even the stuccoed buildings look vaguely Italian.
A classic! Costume design by William Chang. This dude also edited it and did the production design (unless there are three different William Changs working on this.) That explains the consistency of the look of the film. But no one thinks about William Chang, only how wonderful this Wong Kar Wai film is.