'In Mood for Love' Simmers With Secrets, Passion By Matthew Green
CANNES, France (Reuters) - Secrets dominate the haunting love story of two
neighbors ensnared in a web of infidelity in 1960s Hong Kong in the Cannes Film
Festival entry ``In the Mood for Love.''
Hong Kong directing sensation Wong Kar-wai spent a tortuous 15 months
shooting the movie, forcing his actors to improvise the plot from only the germ
of a script and constantly bombarding them with new ideas.
The resulting screenplay traces an agonizing series of coincidences that
force newspaper editor Chow and beautiful secretary Li-zhen to confront their
awful predicament: both their spouses are having an affair with each other.
Hemmed in by prying, moralizing neighbors, the anguished pair have only each
other to confide in -- falling into a doomed affair as Chow seeks vengeance on
his wife and Li-zhen struggles to comprehend what has happened.
``We wanted to tell the love story in terms of secrets,'' Kar-wai told
Reuters in an interview on the beach at Cannes.
While their spouses are romping away on so-called business trips, Chow and
Li-zhen's affair is portrayed only through tense conversation -- keeping the
true nature of their relationship a secret even from the audience.
``Those two characters never say ``I love you,'' they never confront things
positively,'' Kar-wai, his eyes blacked out behind sunglasses, said.
Kar-wai won the best director prize at Cannes in 1997, and joins five other
Asian directors in competition for the Golden Palm this year -- an unprecedented
number from the region.
``In the Mood For Love'' was shot in Bangkok, meticulously recreating the
back alleys and noodle bars of a now vanished quarter of Hong Kong where Kar-wai
But the final sequence switches to the Buddhist temple of Angkor Wat in
Cambodia, where Chow (Tony Leung) follows the tradition of whispering the guilty
secret of his vengeful motive for the affair into a hole in the wall.
``For me that place carries angles to the whole thing. Compared to daily
life, there's another level in life where we can have a distance from the
emotions `` Kar-wai said.
Maggie Cheung, who stars as Li-zhen, said making the film to Kar-wai's
demanding rythm had been an ordeal -- especially given the five hours a day she
spent in the make-up room recreating the 60s look.
``I was frustrated, we had months and months of work, we had tons of material
in the can, but he said we had no film,'' Cheung told Reuters.
But the actress who made her name in Jackie Chan's world-wide smash hit
``Police Story,'' said that after a break from the filming to make a slapdash
three-week production, she had come to appreciate Kar-wai's perfectionism.
``Each shot was like a brushstroke. He's an artist and I appreciate him as an
artist,'' she said