In the Mood for Love: Picture Worth a Thousand Words | Video Essay

In the Mood for Love: Picture Worth a Thousand Words | Video Essay

This video is sponsored by Surfshark I remember one day, in film school My film aesthetics teacher walked in He was excited, giggling like a child He said “I have a special treat for you today” That treat Was a 35mm film print of In the Mood for Love It was an experience I will never forget Watching it on a large screen Feeling that texture of lights and shadows A wash of film grains, like memories clouded Being played back on an old projector I feasted on every detail on screen From the aesthetic to the visual metaphor Details like showing a man’s conflict By letting him walk home Only to have his mirror reflection walks away Hidden in plain sight Is another layer of story that you may have felt But otherwise goes unnoticed Today, we’ll go through In the Mood for Love And I’ll show you those layers of story hidden within the picture And hopefully through this You can gain a better appreciation for this film And films in general Set in 1960s Hong Kong In the Mood for Love tells the story of Mr. Chow And Mrs. Chan They move into the same apartment building Along with their respective spouses In the first five minutes The film immediately establishes how crowded the environment is For a reason that will be clear to us soon We know these two each rented a room Yet the film never once show their rooms in full Instead opting to film the majority of the scenes through hallways Where people are pushed Not only against the wall But to the edge of the frame And when we do see the room It’s either through a window Or a door Which is almost always kept open It’s a significant detail Because these five minutes don’t just show us how crowded the living condition is But rather, how little privacy exists within 1960s Hong Kong Conversations are filmed non traditionally Often times, characters’ faces overlaps Other times, it’s a single long take from the side Still others, only one side of the conversation is seen The imperfection feels spontaneous and candid Added with the long hallways or door frames It is as if we are looking down the hallway And seeing parts of the story In essence, we are also one of the neighbors Soon, Mrs. Chan realizes her husband is cheating
on her With Chow’s wife Chan and Chow meet in a diner And Mrs. Chan breaks the news to him In a suspenseful, roundabout way Which I won’t spoil it here But notice how before she breaks the news The film cuts between the two characters Despite them being in close proximity They don’t occupy the same screen space But as soon as Mrs. Chan decides to break the news The camera pans between the two They still don’t occupy the same frame But there is now a connection between them And after they leave the diner Finally, the two now exist in the same frame Walking together A tragic friendship forms between Chow and Chan As they keep each other company “I wonder how it began” Which, in this environment with little privacy Will inevitably stir up some gossip Before we continue First, a word from our sponsor Surfshark Surfshark is an award-winning VPN That helps protect your online security And more If you are a fan of this channel You’ve probably experienced the frustration of Looking for a specific foreign film Only to realize it’s not available for streaming in your region That’s where a VPN service can help you Surfshark unlocks blocked content By switching your IP address to one of over 50 countries of your choosing And if you are a frequent traveller like me You can also use Surfshark to get access to contents back home And the best part: Your privacy will be protected the entire time Surfshark encrypts all the information sent to and from your devices Keeping you safe from hackers, criminals, and surveillance If that sounds interesting to you Good news, viewers from this channel can get Surfshark VPN at Enter the promo code “Accented” For a whopping 83% off and one extra month for free! Give Surfshark a try today Link in the description below We left off with Chow and Chan leaving the diner together This is literally the next scene After some casual banter about each other’s spouses Chow says “Shall we stay out tonight” What happened? Are they together? “My husband would never say that” They are play acting Trying to figure out how the affair started Remember this? “I wonder how it began” Yet, I bet many of us jumped to the conclusion That they started an affair of their own That’s what I did when I first saw this film Yet the hint is right there Notice the vertical shadows Like a jail entrapping the guilty party Especially prominent right when they hold hands Yet when the truth is revealed It is shown that we have been looking out
a window The prison bars entrap us, not them We are seeing nothing but fragments Parts of the larger image And we jumped to a conclusion Remember when I said their relationship stirs up gossip? Well, the film only ever addresses gossip once “It’s right to enjoy yourself while you’re young” In a short, almost throw away scene But the pressure of gossip is ever-present Through imagery, we already know that there is not privacy But the cinematography goes beyond that Through windows Mirrors People’s bodies We are the neighbors The co-workers The taxi drivers We are always spying on them Forming our own conclusions We are the ever-present neighbour that spreads the gossip Finally, let’s talk about how these ideas are expanded upon In the Mood for Love often repeats scenes To show the progression of time And emphasize the changes and story progression Right after their first play acting The next scene shows them in a diner, again Chan and Chow order food for each other Dishes that their spouses like “I guess your wife likes spicy dishes” This time, the camera is closer Much more intimate The dollying is gentle, sensual The conversation is no longer filmed from the side We are in the moment And they even occupy the same screen space For this brief scene We are no longer the nosy neighbor We see everything But there is one more detail For the unusually long two-shot They never talk And when they do The other is either off screen Or just a back of a head That is significant In their play act Mrs. Chan tries to act like Chow’s wife And Chow, Chan’s husband On one hand, Mrs. Chan is trying to be the woman her husband is in love with At the same time, she’s being the woman Chow loves There is this duality This ambiguity in their conversations “Why did you call me at the office today?” Where we don’t know if they are talking to
their spouses Or if they are saying things as themselves “I was bored. I wanted to hear your voice” So, instead of talking to an identifiable,
specific person They talk to a generic back of a head This duality is used multiple times through the film Where you are unsure who’s who Is this part of the act Or is this real Perhaps to the surprise of no one The two slowly fall in love Or did they? Are we looking at them playing acting? Even during the climax When Chow confesses his love Are they really in love? Or are they merely in love with a version of their spouses? In the single shot that absolutely destroyed me After their confession Chow wants to end this affair before it begins In a dream like fashion The film runs at half the frame rate Chow lets go of her hand And walks away Chan turns around Chow in the background, small, out of focus Chan’s face painted by shadows With one last struggle And she finally Turns away from the light, completely. In the Mood for Love is poetry on film And like poetry It’s hard to explain It’s just something that you have to experience Because hidden within the sight and sound There is something beyond words A mood, a qualia I tried my best to show you how to reach that layer And I only barely scratched the surface And now, it’s time for you to go watch it And rewatch it The film is worthy of your time Every time

Dereck Turner

53 thoughts on “In the Mood for Love: Picture Worth a Thousand Words | Video Essay

  1. Evan Pangaribuan says:

    Hi Accented Cinema, are you gonna make video about Weathering with You & Parasite? They both will be in Oscar next year. And btw please announce us if you make Instagram acc. Thanks

  2. KickYou 4Free says:

    My boy is finally getting sponsors👍

  3. Trần Thanh Trung says:

    Hey, Accented Cinema. Will you make about Chinese animation?

  4. Sempi Traum says:

    More sponsors means more money to show how good Chinese cinema can be.

  5. 不染尘皓月临空 says:


  6. andersdenkend says:

    One of the most beautiful HK movies. Kudos to Christopher Doyle for making almost all Wong Kar-Wai movies look great!

  7. ilovecodemonkeys says:

    I think Every Frame a Painting (edit: It was Nerdwriter1 thanks for the correction AC) did a video on this about the framing of enclosed spaces where the characters are put into cramped spaces during times of conflict

    It’s a beautifully shot movie

    Edit: you’ve got the chops to make it big in film analysis. I get huge vibes of EFAP from you 🙂

  8. Andrew Pragasam says:

    One of the most poignant and artful love stories ever made. I can't get over that Maggie Cheung does not make movies anymore. She was such a big part of my movie loving youth. At least she left behind an amazing legacy, including In the Mood for Love.

  9. Gorsken says:

    I saw this movie a few years ago and remember it being a bit difficult to understand. I might want to give it a try again.

  10. Duchi says:

    I'm a simple man
    if Accented Cinema recommends a film
    I'm watching it

  11. Michael Coffey says:

    Love your reviews such depth, intelligence, and respect for the medium. Here is hoping your channel grows and grows an grows :). Congrats on getting some sponsors 🙂 hope the $ funding helps make this a more viable passion job for you good Sir :).

  12. ACADIA says:

    one of, if not my favorite movies being covered by one of, if not my favorite channels. thank you!. i'm a filmmaker and writing a specific script that is heavily inspired by In The Mood For Love, so i'm probably gonna watch this video many many more times. again thank you so much!

  13. Webinatic says:

    Amazing story.

  14. Chris Legaspi says:

    I never noticed and appreciated the framing so much until you pointed it out. Another great essay. I'm going to watch this again and soak up the visuals with a new appreciation

  15. tykszeto says:

    Sadly, I've NEVER watched this film… but definitely looking to check it out now!

    Back in the days I remember my mom telling me how Wong Ka Wai movies are "boring"… so we never rented the LD (or was it VHS at the time?)… Often opting for action films, or comedies…

  16. Carilho Imelda says:

    I cried watching the ending and I never fell in love with a movie but this one took the cake

  17. alvinkuo777 says:

    It would be nice to see you do an exploration of 2046 and then when It’s sequel Blossoms comes out, an overall examination of the trilogy. Though who knows if Wong Kar Wai will change the film as he is making it. He is the improviser of cinema today; I can’t think of many directors who are willing to edit out characters and create new stories from his footage.

    Btw I miss the old Hong Kong cinema, both the stars and the directors. Great movies coming from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan from the 80s to early 00. Now there are only a few directors who are putting out work on that level, usually at festivals and sometimes banned or censored.

  18. Notchnik says:

    love your videos 😉

  19. DongHua Reviews says:

    I cant wait to see what you think of the new NeZha film! It's incredible and I'd love to hear your take on it.

  20. Ariaditya Pramestu says:

    I have watched it 3 times…

  21. Ilja Ivanov says:

    Personally, I find that the film belongs in one's memory, rather to be seen over and over. Maybe it's stupid, but I really prefer to remember, to contemplate on this movie a lot more than I actually want to experience it again – splendid as it is! This film (along with 2046) is one of those I will think about for the rest of my life. 🙂

  22. The Right One says:

    Awesome. All of your video flows really well.

  23. Cafelogis says:

    So 2046 after?

  24. Jordan Laramore says:

    You never ever disappoint!!! I'm about to watch this movie again!!!

  25. beau danner says:

    "even the teapot was sexy"

  26. Rafael Andrade says:

    The best film of the century so far. One of the best films of all time.

  27. John Choi says:

    Awesome analysis!! I love that "poetry in cinema"… So cool that you got to watch a 35mm print!

  28. evl619 says:

    My favorite movie ever, thank you for the video.
    However, you didn't once mention about the music, how could you!!!

  29. Vincent Salvador Latosa says:

    Great performance from Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung and all of the cast and crew. This maybe the best movie Wong Kar Wai directed.

  30. 罗梦宇 says:


  31. enrique esteban antonio suarez curutchet says:

    I have no words, it's a piece of poetry. Beautiful!

  32. 浩月临空 says:


  33. Rufei says:

    I'm sold! Now let me stop this video so that I can watch the original first. Why are you so damn compelling?

  34. William C says:

    Wong Kar Wai's most atmospheric work to date. I am not a big fan of his, but this was really really well done in an art-house film kinda way. Maggie Cheung was exceptional, Tony Leung was also excellent in his subtle way. Wong puts a lot of thought into his cinematography, much more so than most of his HK contemporaries. This film is a classic, and probably a good case study for film students.

  35. Diego Montoya says:

    I have seen this film several times and I also share with you a great affinity towards this cinematic masterpiece. I liked this film so much, that I even watched the film 2046 a couple of times just to examine the similarities and differences, and ended up loving that film on its own.

    Have you seen 2046, and if so, what did you think/feel about it, contrasting it against the backdrop of "In the Mood for Love", it's spiritual inspiration?

  36. V L says:

    i never could watch in the mood for love because maggie cheung, in real life, would never look at an asian guy as a love interest. she only likes white guys, like many asian women, so seeing her on screen 'pretending' to be in love with an asian guy is as believable as a guy flying around in a red cape.

  37. spanishderp says:

    You're highly underrated, you should have a couple million subscribers

  38. Akash Singh says:

    You brought me into chinese cinema , love from india

  39. Teresa Tom says:

    I will watch it. It is really amazing to know that there is a great movie to watch.
    And would like to ask you why modern Chinese TV series are getting worse? Because our family used to watch Chinese TV series a lot. But in these days it is hard to find good TV series

  40. DatDoodle says:

    I'm so glad I've discovered your channel. Definitely one of my top favorite channels I'm subbed to.

  41. Oliver Delica says:

    Man Yang Zhang. You have weird tastes for a movie. (Compliments)

  42. Pika Cheeks says:

    One thing I like about In The Mood For Love that I picked up while watching was:

    You never get to see the spouses that are cheating. The characters are talking to them but you never see them, they're kinda absent from the movie. They're there but they're not being shown and are absent, which is meta since we never see them and the characters never see them, which adds to the sense of loneliness which is a theme of the film.

  43. idham21 y.c says:

    One of my fav film

  44. Johnny Zhang says:

    The first time I watched this as a kid, I remember being so confused at the end. Rewatched it a few years ago and the experience completely changed my mind.

  45. Hisame Artwork says:

    Interesting to have it broken down like this. I accidentally saw as a child this film and the raw egg scene was very gross and unsettling to me so I forever avoided this film. When I was little I thought it was porn… don't laugh, I didn't know much.

  46. Jonathan Alvarez says:

    Love this film, one of my top ten. Would like to see your thoughts on the new animated film NE ZHA

  47. TC Candler says:

    "In the Mood for Love" is one of my Top 10 Films of All Time. Breathtaking cinema.

  48. Stuart Foster says:

    Excellent video as always. Off topic, but I am wondering if you have seen the recent Chinese film "An Elephant Sitting Still", and what your thoughts on it are?

  49. dojokonojo says:

    I heard about this film during some award for best foreign film. It's a terrible shame I still haven't found the time to see it yet.

  50. Caesar Topacio says:

    This is your classiest movie review/analysis so far.

  51. Maraden Siregar says:

    You'll never be the same person again after watching this movie

  52. Stephan Martins says:

    This is amazing. You are amazing. I love how you talk, how you present your observations and ideas. Thank you for another great video!

  53. sean Chua says:

    a shout out to Christopher Doyle the cinematographer for this movie. in a movie without cg or stunt work , the person who puts everything on film deserves greater respect

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *