Wong Kar-Wai’s classic In the Mood for Love, a poetic and introspective investigation of love, longing, and missed opportunities, was elevated by the BFI Film on Film Festival with a special 35mm screening.
From the 8th-11th of June, the BFI held their very first film festival dedicated to screening works solely on celluloid – the 2023 Film on Film Festival. From 70mm to 35mm and even nitrate, the festival brought a new life to some of the most beloved films in film history. With a wide range of classics on offer, the festival screened special presentations of Jaws, Mildred Pierce, and a collection of Straight 8 Originals. Like all festivals held by the BFI, the Film on Film festival was perfectly curated and well-thought out, with a strong sense of each film being catered exactly to the taste of every film fanatic fan that revels in the beauty of each BFI screening that is held – truly a meaningful hotspot for like minded individuals to celebrate the beauty of cinema under one roof.
I was lucky enough to go along to the screening of Wong Kar-Wai’s 2000 classic, In the Mood for Love, which was screened on brand new 35mm print. Though I had already seen the film prior to the screening, I was eager to watch it come to life in a brand new way through the 35mm display, and I was not let down – a film that I already admired for its storytelling and cinematography was, somehow, presented in an even more beautiful light. The use of the 35mm was able to heighten every element of the film, creating an immersive and authentic viewing experience, where the spectator could be transported into the streets of Hong Kong in the 1960s, and truly be a part of the heartwrenching journey between the two central characters.
In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-Wai is truly a captivating work of art, a visually stunning and emotionally powerful picture, which reveals the unspoken longing, forbidden love, and the bittersweet essence of human connection. This is best seen through the relationship that forms between Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) and Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) after discovering that their respective partners are having an affair. As they battle with the loneliness and betrayal that plague their lives, the two form a strange connection, taking solace in their shared understanding and unexpressed attraction. Both Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung deliver outstanding performances – Leung portraying Mr. Chow with a quiet intensity, and with his subtle gestures and longing glances, he conveys a wealth of unsaid feelings.
On the other hand, Cheung radiates grace and sensitivity as Mrs. Chan while expertly pulling the audience into her character’s complex inner world. There is no denying their connection, and the unfulfilled needs bubbling up beneath the surface feed the tension that animates each exchange the two share.
What sets In the Mood for Love apart is the extraordinary artistry. Each scene is lovingly crafted and emanates a surreal atmosphere thanks to Wong Kar-Wai’s skilled use of colours, lighting, and camera angles – which was further highlighted by watching the film on the big screen. The tension between restraint and necessity is expertly captured in the stunning cinematography, which was directed by Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping-Bing. Every shot, from the meandering corridors and dimly lit chambers to the sodden streets of Hong Kong, is a visual feast that transports the viewer into a realm of melancholic beauty.
Although it is brief, the dialogue packs a punch and frequently says more with less. Through these reflective periods and subtly expressive body language, the film vividly depicts the characters’ inner suffering and the social ties that bind them. Accompanying the dialogue, the film’s hauntingly elegant score by Shigeru Umebayashi and Michael Galasso delicately compliments the visual poetry on screen. The sad melodies and lingering notes further immerse the audience in the emotional atmosphere of the movie.
In the Mood for Love is a masterpiece which provides an insightful lesson on the fleeting nature of desire, the anguish of missed opportunities, and the complexities of love in all its expressions, capturing human yearning and the excruciating grief of unfulfilled passions to a perfect degree. This film is transformed into a classic that calls for repeated viewings thanks to Wong Kar-Wai’s directing, the excellent performances from the cast, breathtaking visuals, and of course, the mournful score.
The experience of watching In the Mood for Love is ultimately indelible and heartrendingly lovely. This cinematic achievement, which leaves a lasting effect on the spirit, reminds us of the tremendous depths of the human heart and the persistent appeal of what might have been. Long after the credits have rolled, In the Mood for Love continues to hold viewers’ interest with its wonderful attention to detail, understated acting, and lovely storytelling.
In the Mood for Love was screened on a brand new 35mm print at BFI Southbank, London as part of their inaugural BFI Film on Film Festival, the first film festival dedicated to screening works solely on celluloid.