Soundtracks #8 – In the Mood For Love

In the Mood For Love

[This series just gets more and more fun – excellent! I’m delighted that you all seem to be into it. Here’s Tim from The Daily Growl. He’s from the Diplomatic Service of the The Nation of Scottish Bloggers, being a Glaswegian (you know, slightly malnourished, likes to glass folk, etc…) posted to the London office for the foreseeable future.]

I love this film. Never tire of it. It’s nothing really to do with the story – it can’t be, there’s almost none there. It’s just a very simple tale of unrequited love. But that’s maybe why I love it so much. Without having any plot twists to worry about, Wong Kar-Wai puts all his effort into making it a film that you feel. Everything about it is great, from Christopher Doyle’s amazing cinematography, the period detail, the splendid costumes, the slow but certain way that the story unfolds. To cap it all, Maggie Cheung is totally gorgeous (and if it’s men you like, Tony Leung ain’t half bad either) and looks even better in costume designer William Chang’s wonderfully retro cheoungsams. Just watch her as she swishes downstairs, all dressed up to get some soup from the stall outside. Surely the sexiest soup-run ever.

The whole thing is a sumptuous, sensual delight and being such, it’s not all about what you see. The score is an integral part of its lusciousness. Hearing tracks on their own (as you will below) somewhat disjoints them from the whole piece. Sure, the main theme is beautiful, and there are plenty other pleasures and curios to be heard, from Nat King Cole’s Spanish language versions of his famous songs, to traditional Chinese music, to something that can only be described as proto-Cantopop. But they have to be heard as part of the film, or at least the soundtrack album, to be appreciated properly. So do yourself a favour.

I’ve written this piece so far in the first person, but I need to add that this movie, and the films of Wong Kar-Wai more generally, are a bit of a shared passion of Mrs Growl and I. So much so that when we went to an exhibition of Christopher Doyle’s work in an East London gallery a few years back, we just had to fork out an unreasonably high amount of cash for a print from the making of In the Mood for Love. Maggie Cheung stares upwards towards the camera, looking as fine as ever. Wong sits overseeing his masterpiece. It’s a great shot. All that’s missing, in fact, is the soundtrack.

Nat King Cole – Aquellos Ojos Verdes
Yumeji’s Theme (by 梅林茂 of course!)
Michael Galasso – Blue (this sounds like an instrumental version of the gospel standard Wayfaring Stranger, but with a definite Chinese twist)

Definitely, definitely Wayfaring Stranger. What a fine version too.

Posts in this series:
– Crash Calloway from Pretending Life is Like a Song writes about The Commitments.
– Nate, who plays viola in The Young Republic explains why some terrible films have excellent scores.

– My dearest darling Mrs. Toad sings the praises of the High School Movie.
– DC, presenter of The Waiting Room, goes on a truly interminable ramble about the great Tom Waits and One From the Heart.
– Brother of Toad talks about how the context of music can interfere with its use in a movie.
– John sums up Natural Born Killers in three sentences.
– I have a go myself by writing about the art of referencing films in your song lyrics and what it lets you do.
– Tim from The Daily Growl digs away at the sensual texture of In the Mood For Love.
– Matt from Draped in Velvet might never forgive the false start of the world of rap-rock.
– Ian from Broken Records delivers the rant that started this all off: why soundtracks just don’t work!

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