In The Mood For Love Review
Michael Brooke has already captured the beauty of this film in an earlier review of In the Mood for Love (for an older DVD release) so with that in mind I have kept this section fairly short...
When two couples move in to a new building Mrs Chan (Maggie Cheung) and Mr Chow (Tony Leung) find themselves as neighbours in a small Hong Kong apartment block circa 1962. An immediate spark is present as both of them find that their partners are constantly away on business or late home from work, because of this they start to see more of one another (through casual meetings) than their own partners. In an ironic twist it soon becomes apparent that their partners (who we never see onscreen) are actually engaged in an affair with one another, and it is through Mrs Chan and Mr Chow's own steadfast decision to not become like their partners that the spark that was already there is ignited into a flame via the more constant meetings and various re-enactments as they try to ascertain exactly what happened and just how their partners relationship began. Due to this decision to not become like their partners and the weight of 1962 Chinese society (that deems companionship between a man and a woman as wrong unless you are married) crushing down on them their innocent meetings (that cause idle gossip) only increase their growing need for each other further.
Because of their own need to be true to their partners and societies needs for them to be the same way their growing love is restricted to gestures, glances and the occasional touch. To accentuate these more intimate moments director Wong Kar-Wai uses his visual talent to draw out the many looks, the occasional touch and the various gestures by distancing the viewer from the actors and almost making you feel like a voyeur as you watch something that is so innocent yet so intimate take place. Combining what must surely be career best performances from both Maggie Cheung (who smoulders with radiance throughout) and Tony Leung with the quite beautiful imagery, Wong Kar-Wai has then used his masterful choice of music to add an almost hypnotic feel to the proceedings. With the repetitive (another staple of Wong Kar-Wai) use of the alluring 'Yumeji's Theme' along with several other inspired choices Wong Kar-Wai has managed to create a film that is at all times truly captivating.
This French Region 2 DVD was purchased from Amazon France and costs around £21.50. After the excellent Shiri package I thought it would be along time until I saw another superbly crafted gatefold style set but In the Mood for Love provides just that.
Possibly the best a Hong Kong film has ever looked on DVD the quality of this transfer is nothing short of stunning. TF1 Video has sourced a print for this transfer that despite the occasional white speck and some (standard for Hong Kong films) slight grain is in near perfect condition. Maintaining the original 1:66:1 aspect ratio and utilising anamorphic enhancement we are provided with an image that has a constantly high level of detail, vivid presentation of colours, and crucially black levels are nigh on perfect while the compression handles the various patterns and textures seen in the huge array of intricately detailed clothing with apparent ease. Top stuff.
For the main feature this has to be one of the best-specified DVD's available, with no less than 3 audio languages and 8 subtitle tracks this set will no doubt provide a language that most European and Asian customers can understand. For the main feature I opted for the original language track, Cantonese DD5.1 and rather surprisingly for a film of this nature the audio track makes full use of the soundstage. Mostly used to create a believable environment everything from rain to office chatter is projected perfectly around the room, and while the beautiful music is mostly confined to the fronts (but with stunning clarity), the final piece of music is spread out to consume the entire soundstage to stunning effect. Although this track will not offer demo worthy big bangs it will allow you to show off the subtlety that Dolby Digital is capable of. The English subtitle track is again of top quality, opting for an easy to read white font there are absolutely no problems with either spelling or grammar, instead the subtitles just flow with the superbly delivered dialogue although they can sometimes be a little fast when translating Chinese text.
Apart from a 12-page booklet (French language only) all extras are spread across the two discs. Firstly, I just have to mention that the Menu system on both discs is absolutely superb. After selecting your language preferences (after which all text/dialogue is presented where possible as you chose) a combination of superb visuals and enchanting music will take you through each of the discs superb navigation systems.
While the bulk of the extra features are contained on Disc 2 it is still worth taking a closer look at Disc 1. Contained within is the Original English Theatrical Trailer (in Non-Anamorphic Widescreen) as well as a text-based section entitled 'The Film and the Soundtrack'. Here you will find the first of many informative mini-essays on the various pieces of music heard throughout the film as well as links to the use of each piece of music in the film.
When you pop in the supplements disc you will again be asked to choose both your audio and subtitle language preference. Upon selection you will find yourself in a taxicab that has four locations, Guest House, Hotel, Restaurant and Local Businesses. Let me take you through what each section has to offer...
Interview with Wong Kar-Wai: Making up for the lack of an Audio Commentary this 22 minute interview covers most aspects of the film with sufficient depth. Wong Kar-Wai speaks extremely good English and talks about the various subtleties that the Western audience will not understand, the problems with production, his visual style and choice of music, his selection of actors, the mood of the film and much, much more.
On Set Report: More than just your usual promotional fluff this 18 minute featurette takes us behind the scenes on the making of In the Mood For Love, going so far as to show the actors developing scenes (some of which are not present in the final cut) and their characters (including Tony Leung with a fake moustache that was lost for the final character). Also included are interviews with Wong Kar-Wai, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung (and like the Director both leads speak very good English).
Music from the film: In this comprehensive look at the music used in the film you will find artwork from the various soundtrack albums, full track listings for the soundtrack, an 11 page analysis of the music from Joanna C.Lee, biographies for Michael Galasso (Original Music) and Shigeru Umebayashi (Yumeji's Theme), reflections on the music by Michael Galasso and Wong Kar-Wai, and finally a 20 second Music Spot. As an extremely important part of the film it is a joy to see that so much effort has gone into this highly informative section as you read about the various music used, the creation and selection of tracks as well as reflections on the music used.
Deleted Scenes and Alternate Ending: Presented here are three deleted scenes (totalling 27 minutes) with optional commentary from director Wong Kar-Wai. It is fairly obvious why these scenes were cut as they would have been detrimental to the overall pacing of the film, they are however worth a look to see what alternative directions Wong Kar-Wai could have taken, and of course to see Tony Leung in what can only be called the 'Donnie Brasco' look! Wong Kar-Wai provides audio commentary for each of these deleted scenes in his native language (with English subtitles) and after listening to the commentary it becomes obvious why an audio commentary for the main feature just would not have worked. While he provides some interesting insights to the scenes in question his commentary barely lasts 5 minutes (in total!), which leaves most of the deleted scenes left to play out with their original audio intact. Also present in this section is an 11-minute alternative ending that again is interesting but, like the deleted scenes, was cut for the right reasons. No audio commentary is provided for the alternate ending.
In Front and Behind the Camera: In another selection of text based extra features we find a set of relatively in-depth biographies for the cast and crew as well as a set of Artistic and Technical credits. Also present are the DVD Credits, these really deserve a brief look just so you can see who created this wonderful set.
Multimedia Section: Pop this disc into your PC to find a selection of high quality wallpaper images (any picture in this review with a Jet Tone Films logo is a wallpaper image located on the disc), a screensaver, and of course the obligatory web-links.
Theatrical Trailers, Teasers and Promo Reels: Presented in Non-Anamorphic widescreen are 16 minutes worth of Trailers consisting of a Promo-reel; Three Trailers for the Cannes Film Festival; Two Original Teasers; Original-Trailer; Three French Teasers; and a French Trailer. Utilising a mixture of Bryan Ferry's In the Mood For Love and the music used in the film this comprehensive set of trailers are worth a look just to see some more deleted scenes not present elsewhere on this set, and of course to get another fix of that music and superlative visual style!
Posters and Concepts: In another comprehensive section we see both the final Poster artwork used around the world (including the unique Russian posters) as well as conceptual work from France, Korea, Germany and Hong Kong.
Wong Kar-Wai World Tour: Guaranteed to bring a smile to your face this 4 minute featurette follows Director Wong Kar-Wai and his main cast as they promote In the Mood for Love in several Asian countries (including Hong Kong, Japan and China). The whole thing is set to more of the engrossing soundtrack and is just a fun piece to watch as we see the various receptions the directors and cast receive.
Awards: To finish off this promotional section we see the list of awards that In the Mood for Love has (rightfully) amassed in its relatively short lifespan.
Tailor: Here we see a 90 second featurette showing a lady being measured up for the Qi Pao style of dress that is used frequently in the film as well as a Tailor beginning to measure out the material. Also present is a small photo gallery showcasing the variety of quite exquisite dresses that Maggie Cheung wears throughout the film.
Hair Dresser: Here we see a lady having her hair put into one of the many styles seen within the film and quite frankly I am amazed she has any hair left after this rigorous session! This short clip truly makes you feel for the female actresses in the film who would have gone through this process every day of the shoot!
Noodle House: After watching the Interview with Wong Kar-Wai everyone should understand the significant role that the various foods seen within the film play. Here we are given (in what is a great idea) recipes for 4 of those meals (with ingredients and full detailed instructions) - Sesame Syrup, Pan-Fried Noodles, Won Ton and Chinese Ravioli. I have yet to try any of them out but I cannot wait to give them a go!
Postcard Kiosk: A large selection of photographs taken from the film.
Mah-jong Club: Included within is a one minute video clip showing the game of Mah-Jong being played (and it makes NO sense what-so-ever!!) as well as an Interactive game of Mah-jong that, with a little persistence (Hint: match 4 similar pairs of tiles in a certain order) reveals an elaborate scheme to access the hidden Easter Eggs menu....contained within are...
Easter Eggs: Unlike the rest of the disc everything in this section is provided in its native language only with no subtitles present in any language.
Tony Leung Music Video: Here we see a music video for the song 'Hua Yang Nian Hua' which is performed as a duet by Tony Leung and 'Niki'. Presented in Non-Anamorphic Widescreen and sung in Cantonese (I think!) it generally features Tony Leung smoking, and looking pretty darn cool, but that's it.
Premiere in Hong Kong: This 14 minute piece is a recording of the In the Mood for Love premiere in Hong Kong. To start with we see various celebrities arriving but then it goes into a series of speeches from various people including Wong Kar-Wai, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung - all of which is sadly not subtitled so is of little use unless you understand the Chinese language used.
Room 2046: A series of photographs from cut scenes that focus on what happened (or not for that matter) in said room.
Two Unreleased Trailers and Two Unreleased Teasers: Exactly as the titles suggest these are a set of unused (French) Trailers/Teasers that are again presented in Non-Anamorphic widescreen and run for 5 minutes.
Concepts for T-Shirts by agnes b: Again, as the title suggests you will find 4 pieces of concept artwork for T-Shirts within.
2046: Title Logo: The logo for Wong Kar-Wai's forthcoming film scheduled for a 2002 release.
Film Master class: This 16 minute featurette is taken from the 2001 Cannes Film Festival where Wong Kar-Wai gave a 'Film Master class' presentation. This feature actually makes use of the multi-angle abilities of the DVD format but do not get too excited as it merely shows you the video as shot from three different cameras, so while it is multi-angle you do not really gain anything from it. Here we see Wong Kar-Wai (speaking in English) as he talks about the production schedule of In the Mood for Love, his method of shooting two films at once, his method of script writing and his forthcoming film, 2046, among many other interesting topics.
Many readers may believe this film is not for them (and it may very well be true) but I ask everyone to at least give In the Mood for Love a rental as Wong Kar-Wai has created a film with a sense of tension and longing that will pull at even the most emotionally crippled individuals heart, and of course it looks and sounds like no other so is worth a look on those grounds alone. Of course this DVD comes highly recommended, combining a superior Audio/Visual experience with an expertly picked and thoroughly comprehensive selection of extras this is easily one of the most rounded packages I have yet seen on the DVD format.