It’s the 1960’s Hong Kong. Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) and her husband, Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) and his wife rent adjacent apartments in a building. We never meet the spouses of Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow. They are always off camera, we hear them talk. They are at once at the core of the movie, the catalysts, but also not important. Both of these off-camera spouses take long business trips abroad. Soon it becomes apparent that they are on trips together, having an affair. Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow become aware of this and develop a friendship. I expected them to start having their own affair, but they have other plans. They obviously develop feelings for each other as they share meals in restaurants, walk home together and play-act how they will confront their spouses. However, to sleep together, in their opinion would make them no better than their cheating spouses….
It’s a really beautiful film with deep reds and long shots of narrow hallways. Mrs. Chan is ever so elegant in her dresses even if she is going down to the store to get noodles. Their conversations in the rain as they are avoiding the nosy neighbors and their gossip are wonderful. Every shot is so beautifully composed (I’ve never seen cigarette smoke look so pretty before) that I can just watch this film again with no dialogue as long as I can have the awesome score playing in the background.
Did they make the right decision not to pursue their relationship? I don’t think so. Still that was their choice and the film does reflect on it in several “post script” scenes. Kar-Wai made a unique great movie that is at once familiar but so different.