In the Mood for Love

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Synopsis

Hong Kong, 1962: Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and Su Li Zhen (Maggie Cheung Man Yuk) move into neighboring apartments on the same day. Their encounters are formal and polite—until a discovery about their spouses creates an intimate bond between them. At once delicately mannered and visually extravagant, Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love is a masterful evocation of romantic longing and fleeting moments. With its aching sound­track and exquisitely abstract cinematography by Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping Bing, this film has been a major stylistic influence on the past two decades of cinema, and is a milestone in Wong’s redoubtable career.

Picture 7/10

The Criterion Collection releases its fourth edition for Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love, now presenting the film in full 4K through a new UHD edition. The film is yet again presented in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on a dual-layer, BD-66 disc with a 2160p/24hz ultra high-definition encode in 10-bit SDR (no HDR). This release also includes a standard dual-layer Blu-ray disc featuring the film in 1080p high-definition alongside the release’s special features. The Blu-ray replicates the disc found in Criterion’s World of Wong Kar-wai box set, right down to the menu screen.

So, where do I begin with this new 4K presentation? Well, for starters I should point out that it is sourced from the same 4K restoration used for that World of Wong Kar-wai set, meaning that you get the same colour timing and all of the other little digital defects that come with it. Firstly, when compared to Criterion’s previous 2002 DVD and 2012 Blu-ray releases, the colours lean heavier towards green through the new restoration, altering the colour palette to a significant degree: flesh tones are greener, whites are green, and the reds can come off a bit duller in places (though not always). Wong and director of photography Christopher Doyle did employ green filters prior to this, starting with Days of Being Wild, so it’s not too far out of the realm of possibility that this was always the intention (even if I never recall it looking that way), but it still looks off within this presentation because it looks like a digital alteration, not something captured naturally through a physical filter. It impacts black levels and the other colours, conflicting with reds especially. As I watched the film (again) I do find I can eventually look past it, but I still can’t say I’m a fan. I miss that autumn look with splashes of jade previously present in the film and replicated heavily in the film’s original marketing. It now has this sickly look that I don’t think works to its benefit.

With the Blu-ray edition I could have maybe gotten around the colours if other aspects of the presentation were rock solid but that sadly isn’t the case since grain management and noise reduction have clearly been performed. I don’t believe this is Criterion’s doing and am pretty sure it was done well before they ever got their hands on the master. It’s something that was evident in a lot of the new restorations for Wong’s films with the end results being wildly inconsistent across titles. Grain hasn’t been completely wiped out (thankfully), but the image has undoubtedly been filtered, and there is very little texture.

It was all rather disappointing when I first viewed it on the new Blu-ray found in the box set but I did have to acknowledge that despite all of its problematic characteristics the end presentation did look slightly better compared to the 2012 Blu-ray and its dated master. Due to that I would have expected that, at the very least, this 4K presentation would offer another slight bump over the newer Blu-ray, yet I can’t say that is the case. I’d even have to say it may amplify the presentation’s current issues, particularly when it comes to the grain management. It ends up coming off less pronounced and smoothed out a bit. It's clumpy and looks even less natural here. It can even look a little noisy in the shadows.

That may have been a little easier to forgive if the 4K edition offered improvements in any other areas, but the sad fact is it really doesn’t. After seeing how Criterion’s 4K edition for Night of the Living Dead turned out in spite of its lack of HDR (offering slightly improved grayscale and solid black levels) I had a bit of hope here, thinking that might still translate over to a colour film. But there really isn’t any significant improvement to be found. Colours don’t look any better when compared to the Blu-ray's and shadows still look a little washed and flat thanks to flat blacks. I really felt like I could have been just watching a Blu-ray a lot of the time.

Audio 8/10

As with the Blu-ray found in the World of Wong Kar-wai box set, In the Mood for Love comes with a remastered 5.1 surround soundtrack presented in DTS-HD MA. I still rather like the track, finding it wonderfully dynamic and to be a solid improvement over the prior 2012 presentation. The rainstorms sound terrific and are mixed well through the environment, while music is rich and clear with terrific bass and range.

Extras 8/10

The 4K disc does not include any special features and only contains the film. Criterion throws all of the release’s special features on the included standard Blu-ray disc that also offers a 1080p presentation of the feature film. As mentioned in the video portion of this article, the disc is an exact copy of the disc found in the World of Wong Kar-wai box set so all of the material found there is also included here. Sadly, that means some of the features from the 2012 release are still missing.

Things start off yet again with the making-of documentary, @In the Mood for Love. Through interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and a lot of clips from the film, this 51-minute documentary covers the film’s production in an extensive manner. We get to see a lot of the development behind the film and its story, a lot of which was made up spontaneously as production went on, something that proved to be frustrating to Maggie Cheung. The actors talk about developing their characters, who were changed as production went on, and in a bit of a treat we get to see some deleted footage that showcases how the director was constantly changing the direction of the story. Disappointingly the documentary doesn’t get into the film's lengthy shoot or some of the strife that occurred because of constant changes and reshoots. The documentary also doesn't come off as engaging or as surprising as Buenos Aires Zero Degree, a documentary around Wong's Happy Together (and found in the box set). At the very least you get an idea of the frantic shoot and more of a look into Wong's development process.

Next is a short film (about 2 and a half minutes to be precise) by Wong called Hua Yang de Nian Hua. It's a montage of footage featuring some of Hong Kong’s forgotten actresses, all taken from nitrate film stock found at a defunct theater in Chinatown in Hollywood. It’s a lovely little tribute.

One of the features dropped from the 2012 Blu-ray was a 24-minute interview featuring Tony Rayns talking about the film, which I believe was dropped because Wong didn’t want a lot of academic material on his releases. Despite that, Rayns’ 2012 interview around the film's soundtrack does get carried over. The short 8-minute discussion features Rayns going over the film’s score and the various songs that appear, giving brief histories and descriptions. The 2012 disc then accompanied this with 12 cues from the film, though these are now missing for whatever reason.  Instead, a 4-minute music video for the film, directed by Wong and featuring Tony Leung singing, was added.

Also from the 2012 edition is footage from a 2000 press conference following the film’s showing at the Toronto International Film Festival, put together by Roger’s Television and running about 43-minutes. Wong was apparently unable to attend so only actors Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung are in attendance. Asked a series of questions by the moderator and members of the press the two discuss the film’s beginnings, the lengthy production, what it was like to work for Wong, their characters, and the overall style. It can be a bit dry (like a lot of press conferences) but worth watching just to get the perspective of the two actors. This conference runs about 4-minutes shorter than the one found on the old Blu-ray and I'm admittedly not sure why.

The same four deleted scenes included in the 2012 edition again appear here. Three of them (still) come with an optional commentary by director Wong with English subtitles. The commentary features the director talking about shooting the scenes and why they were altered. The scenes resemble some sequences in the finished film but do contain moments not found in them. Some of them could even be described as alternate sequences. A couple of these scenes would have appeared in the mid-section of the film while the other two would have taken place after the film ended, including a sequence where the two main characters meet again (though this scene gets mixed in with the film's actual conclusion). I like the scenes but in some cases I’m glad they were cut as a couple of them would alter the film just enough to where it probably wouldn't have had the same impact on me. But again, they show how the director really wings it as he goes. In total they run about 33-minutes.

The disc still drops the various trailers and TV spots found on the 2012 one, replacing them with a lone trailer promoting the film's new restoration and accompanied by a more modern rendition of the film's central theme music, now complete with some lyrics.

This edition also drops the booklet that came with the 2012 edition. In its place are notes around the film written by Charles Yu. There are some stream-of-conscious insights into the production and the film’s language, but it doesn’t come anywhere near what was in the original booklet, which also included the short story that inspired the film.

Still not a bad set of features, but Wong’s desire to exclude previous academic material is irksome.

Closing

Criterion has done a wonderful job throwing themselves into the 4K format with one incredible release after another, but this marks their first real misfire. Despite all the benefits the film should afford this presentation doesn’t look all that different from the previous high-definition one, the improved resolution even seeming to enhance the problematic aspects of the restoration ever so slightly. This should look so much better than it has turned out.

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Directed by: Wong Kar-wai
Year: 2000
Time: 98 min.
 
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 147
Licensor: Block 2 Distribution
Release Date: November 01 2022
MSRP: $49.95
 
4K UHD Blu-ray/Blu-ray
2 Discs | BD-50/UHD-66
1.66:1 ratio
Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Subtitles: English
Regions A/None
HDR: None
 
 Documentary from 2001 by Wong, chronicling the making of the film   Hua yang de nian hua (2000), a short film by Wong   Interview and cinema lesson from 2001 featuring Wong Kar-wai   Press conference from the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival with actors Maggie Cheung Man Yuk and Tony Leung Chiu Wai   Interview from 2012 with critic Tony Rayns about the soundtrack   Deleted scenes with optional commentary by Wong   Music video   Trailer   A new essay by novelist Charles Yu