In the Mood for Love [rewatch]
While it serves different purposes in different films, Wong’s voiceover has always been central as another layer in his characters’ and cinema’s means of expression. But while there are numerous phone conversations that hang over the film’s images, In the Mood for Love only contains two lines of true voiceover. They both come from Cheung, immediately after she and Leung realize they both know the secret that initially unites, then ultimately divides them: “I thought I was the only one that knew,” then “I wonder how it started,” both laid over a distant, hazy shot of the two of them walking away together.
Wong then cuts to black, then to what appears to be an innocent conversation, then an alarming upsetting of propriety, then a tentative and tortured reenactment. If cinema can be said to embody mindsets, to flesh out characters, then this may be among the greatest of examples: the decision to go down this path is not made on screen, but it is embodied in that brief strip of black leader, that ambiguous space between thought and action, made in an instant that haunts and grows in the mind.
Ten years and the nakedly obvious upheaval therein may have actually improved the fundamental politics of this, at least from my perspective. In the Obama era, Lincoln’s steadfast commitment to his principles could be seen as timely, a friendly reminder from an icon to continue the good work. Now, it’s the actual machinations that resonate; in a way it has matured, or perhaps its outlook has curdled, like some of the greatest historical films; it has come to take on the politics of its time, which is as much a testament to the unchanging undercurrents of America as it is to the total inhabitation from all here.