DVD review: In the mood for beauty

In principal, all films should be seen on the big screen; barring that, on Blu-ray; then DVD, laserdisc, VHS, and on down. But some films more urgently demand the best exhibition: Sue me, but many informational documentaries lose little when seen on disc rather than in theaters. At the other end of the scale, we have stylistically breathtaking narrative films.

Wong Kar-wai's 2000 romance, set in early '60s Hong Kong, is a melodrama about two people in love (Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Maggie Cheung Man-yuk), who, through both fate and character, never quite manage to get together. Or do they? It's full of ambiguities and subtleties, most notably the ending, which was the inspiration for the “whispering scene” in “Lost in Translation.” (Sofia Coppola graciously acknowledged Wong in her Oscar acceptance speech.)

“Mood” is the operative word here; the inimitable style of writer/director Wong, in tandem with great cinematographer Christopher Doyle, transports us into a sort of heightened reality. Criterion's Blu-ray comes from a new authorized transfer with improved sound, thereby easily trumping the company's relatively weak 2002 DVD.

The Blu-ray repeats most of the extras from the DVD and adds two interviews with the Canadian-based Hong Kong film scholar Tony Rayns. In the longer piece (23 minutes), Rayns provides context for the film in a remarkably swift overview of Wong's work; the other, at eight minutes, deals with the movie's memorable score. The extras from the DVD total almost three hours. Wong provides commentary for three of the four deleted scenes on the disc, which are roughly eight minutes each. There's the original 51-minute “making of” doc; 39 minutes of Wong interviews; a 45-minute Q & A with stars Cheung and Leung; and a lovely three-minute short (2000) compiling bits of pre-1960 Chinese features from old nitrate prints Wong found in a California warehouse.

In the Mood for Love (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, $39.95)

ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on “FilmWeek” on KPCC-FM (89.3).

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