In the Mood for Love

As the previous post attests, I'm a firm believer in the importance of titles, and this one felt like a stinker while I was watching. Wong apparently arrived at it by chance after being dissuaded against Age of Bloom (a song in the film and of the period) and Secrets (which sums up the film's themes). Both are superior choices. A good title is like the cherry on top of the icing of the cake (to borrow a metaphor from conversations with Joel, keeper of the peace at the LGNN). It's a way into and a summation of what the film is all about.

The pop song's reference to blossoms is an evocation of spring, youth and the beautiful. Its deployment is partly ironic, as by the time we meet our central couple they are already trapped in loveless marriages which prevent them from being together. Nonetheless, like the pop music of youth, both look back to this time together as their true first young love.

Secrets is rather bluntly explained by Tony Leung in a bar to his wastrel friend, but that and the callback to it at the end is less interesting than the environment of secrecy that pervades the relationships in the film. Maggie Cheung has to field calls from her employer's wife and mistress. Her husband is having an affair with Leung's wife. Their fine eye for details (the same tie, the same handbag) uncovers the secret. They themselves have to be mindful in case the always present neighbours start asking questions. This is a time where you could still be told off by your landlady if she thinks you're spending too many evenings out when your husband is away.

In a society where infidelity is ever-present but rigorously policed, Leung and Cheung choose the moral high ground, even though they are falling in love. All of which made me want them to throw off the soiled principles they insist on clinging to. In fact, the film leaves that open – and I sometimes like to think that Leung is the father to Cheung's son who is revealed at the end, and that little secret was what ended her marriage. But then why would she want to raise the boy without Leung? I suspect Wong had other intentions – conspiring to separate the couple and end the film on a note of yearning for the love, and the specific time, that had passed.

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