花樣年華 — In The Mood For Love — Part 1 & 2

You are the finest, loveliest, tenderest, most beautiful person I’ve ever known and even that is an understatement. — F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Unfamiliar with the title? Well, it’s a reference to the beautifully majestic, and mesmeric masterpiece, In The Mood For Love by Wong Kar Wai. Set in 1960’s Hong Kong, the film is a profoundly moving depiction of love, but also betrayal, loss, missed opportunities, memory, the brutality of time’s passage, and ultimately, loneliness. Life’s fundamentals are set to a glorious color palette, quite unlike anything put to screen before, or since.

When the film was released in 2000, I couldn’t help but be completely enamoured by actress Maggie Cheung’s stunning, yet haunting portrayal of Mrs Chan (Su Li-Zhen). Similarly, I was struck by Tony Leung’s dapper, almost absurdly handsome portrayal of journalist Chow Mo-wan. As a fellow journalist, I can relate…to the long working hours depicted on-screen, but that’s where my resemblance to his character ends.

Throughout my own trials and tribulations in love, this adorable film with its unworldly, dream-like beauty, has carried me through, in the vain hope that I would experience a tiny fraction of the powerful, yet melancholic intimacy that is shared between the two protagonists. The true beauty of the film doesn’t lie in what’s depicted on screen, rather in what isn’t. The protagonists’ spouses are never shown, and whilst physical intimacy is suggested, it’s never fully depicted. The touch of a hand, the feint brush of a cheek, the languid simplicity of it all, strikes a deeply sensual and lascivious chord, which plays on the viewers mind; if they did get together would it be as compelling and compulsive as is hinted at?

On reflection, I discovered that I actually had met someone who I’d found spellbinding and captivating, yet at times so irascibly infuriating. She made my heart melt, and left me (of all people!) lost for words. When an individual can make your eyes glisten and dance with joy, by way of a simple expression, you know in your heart, that the individual is extraordinarily special.

In accordance with the film, we met as neighbors. Sadly, unlike Tony Leung’s character however, I was not married to someone else, but neither was I polite or charming. Instead I was playful, unscrupulous, and quite frankly annoying. Quite how she found me attractive is anyone’s guess, but in truth, persistence can be attractive, if the face fits. Thankfully in my case it did, but only for so long. I was far too self-absorbed to realise that she was slowly, but surely, warding herself from the inevitable. When the moment — and question — arose, I — brimming with confidence — arrogantly and nonchalantly said “No”. I was in control, and if I was happy, that’s all that mattered.

I had always prided myself on being an exemplary gentleman, charming and gracious beyond compare. Pride however, comes before a fall, and fall I did. With her, I found myself giving in to my selfish, Eros/Ludus orientated self, which I had no hope of containing or controlling. In doing so, she literally, and metaphorically, shut the door to the intimacy we once had, which in truth, was very one-sided. I absorbed it all in selfish abandon, and never gave anything back. Not once did I make her feel special, and rather uncharacteristically, I did not take her on a date. I guess in many ways, we sought solace from each other — much like the lead couple — amid the paradoxical loneliness of London.

There was a lesson to be learnt, through the metaphorical slamming of the door. Rather unsurprisingly, it was that you only know a good thing when it’s gone. When I had the chance to love, and to be loved, I let it slip through my fingers, and in agony, watched all the intimacy disappear. So what became of this, and why have I linked Wong Kar Wai’s extraordinary movie to my experiences? It’s because the film traces the notion of love, but also those moments which we choose to shy away from: missed opportunities, loss and the passing of time.

Time has not only made me rediscover my true nature, but it has also helped me appreciate the wonderful gifts of this special individual. Humble, kind, caring, and honest in nature, she has a rare, ethereal beauty, combined with a powerful magnetism drawn from the femme fatales of film noir, to the point where it can become a distraction. Over time, we’ve come to appreciate one another, and in truth, the connection which we now share is far more meaningful and impassioned, than when we first met. The words expressed and the unspoken intimacy, is quite unlike anything we’ve ever experienced.

Her feelings however have changed. For her, there is someone new, who now captures her body, and possibly her mind and soul. I, on the other hand, am left with an unrequited love that has only grown, and become far more intricate to the point where I’m contemplating, what if? Would our friendship thrive outside the counterpoint of my unscrupulous behavior? My chemistry with her, is breathtaking to behold, and to the observing eye would appear to be far more intense, than a simple friendship. She has been, and always will be, a fulfilling treat for the eyes, so to simply dissuade the notion that romance between the two of us would crush our beautiful friendship, is a fallacy. However, like the lead couple depicted on screen, there is a melancholic magic to our relationship, for the period of time that we’ve actually known each other is surprisingly short, yet it has been punctuated and saturated with sharp moments of bitter-sweetness along the way. If we were to rekindle the chemistry we once had, and take the relationship further, would it bring to an end our wonderfully ambiguous friendship, and result in an abrasive, coarse heartbreak? To quote the mellifluous, yet mournful Nat King Cole, whose melodies accompany the film, Quizas, quizas, quizas…(perhaps, perhaps, perhaps).


Friendship may, and often does, grow into love, but love never subsides into friendship. Words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew, upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think. For truth is always strange; stranger than fiction. — Lord Byron

This is for the romantics, the lovers, the sensitive souls. We always knew there would be a conclusion to this tale. This tale, which began amidst the paradoxical loneliness of London, has now transferred to the Venice of Northern Europe, Amsterdam.

Yet, the question remains. What became of the girl next door, and I?

Here’s the thing; one day, you’re sauntering along through life when suddenly, someone, stops you in your tracks. You find them spellbinding and captivating, yet at times so irascibly infuriating. They make your heart melt, and leave you lost for words. They are unfailingly, a treat for the eyes, and make them dance and glisten with joy.

The feeling is all too unexpected. And as such, you fail to realise that your giddy, almost adolescent, playful, crush-filled behaviour, sets the tone for all consequential actions. Rather than taking the feeling seriously, you prefer to rely on what the Ancient Greeks described as ‘Ludus’.

Ludus is the flirtatious and teasing kind of love, the love mostly accompanied by dancing or laughter. It’s the most child-like and fun kind of love. If you think about it; this generation loves Ludus more than anything else.

She on the other hand, expressed her feelings and emotions quite clearly. On numerous instances and occasions, you could read her like a book, her yearning for Eros, Philia and Agape, clear for all — myself included — to see. Yet, as noted in the first part of this tale, when the chance to love, and be loved arose, I let it slip through my fingers, and watched in agony as all the intimacy disappeared.

Tellingly, she questioned why I behaved in such a unscrupulous manner? Why adopt a cold-hearted, arrogant, self-obsessed and egotistical attitude, in marked contrast to the thoughtful, vulnerable, sensitive young man that she had grown rather fond of? I explained that it was my shield, my protection from being hurt. Love hurts. It always does. To protect myself from the inevitable hurt and pain, adopting a carefree, almost careless attitude, somehow lessens the blow. However, the unforseen consequence of adopting a Ludus-like attitude, is that it destroys the soul of the very individual that you adore. And then, they’re gone.

For her, there was someone new, and as an outsider, looking in, it broke my heart. That age-old adage reared its head: “you only know a good thing when it’s gone.” She was now forbidden fruit, and in many ways, my emotions only heightened whenever I was around her, knowing full-well that she was totally out of reach.

Yet, I chased her. Chased. Chased. Chased. Chased her to the point where I transformed into a desperate version of myself. But, love is blind, they say, and in my agony I was blinded to the reality of the situation. The chemistry between us, no longer existed. The intimacy which delights and warms the hearts of two kindred souls, had been extinguished. What remained, was an empty, shallow carcass, brewing resentment, hate and indifference.

The resentment grew, like an infestation. It spread and infected my close friendship with her. Like a virus, it gorged itself on vindictiveness, selfishness and hate. Love and hate, after all, are the closest of bed-fellows. The resentment infested my mind, body and soul, and in one foul swoop, it decided to take matters into its own hands. Months went by, and what had once been a wonderfully ambiguous friendship, was no more.

Time however, is the great healer. It was time that eradicated the infestation of resentment. And over time, we came to appreciate each other’s wonderful gifts. Time reignited the intimacy that we once shared, because without intimacy, all you are is just friends:

Intimacy: Modern consciousness is torn by contradictory demands: on the one hand to escape from others who may have too much power over our lives, our potent audiences (to be authentic and free), and on the other to embrace them (to belong, to feel justified, to be valued). We want to connect with others without losing our autonomy and to express our freedom without being isolated. The relationship between these needs is paradoxical because the expression of one conjures up the need for its counterpart. As we turn our backs on those who would shape our lives we risk alienation or narcissism and must face them again, and as we face them risk submergence and neediness, and so must be prepared to turn away; we are in perpetual oscillation when it comes to other people. We want to be with them and influenced by them, yet at the same time we need space to be ourselves and to pursue our own goals unhampered by their expectations and ambitions for us.

I enveloped her mind and her soul, but life, as always, brought about an abrupt end to capturing all three: mind, body and soul. My journey would take me abroad, away from our wonderfully intimate, yet still ambiguous friendship. When we finally began to understand each other, life decided to deliver a final, fatal, cruel blow, and our intense, beautifully quixotic friendship would remain bittersweet, and unfulfilled. As I stated in my previous tale, our friendship is a real-life reflection of the beautifully mesmeric and majestic masterpiece, In The Mood For Love, by Wong Kar Wai.

Set in 1960’s Hong Kong, the film is a profoundly moving depiction of love but also betrayal, loss, missed opportunities, memory, the brutality of time’s passage, and ultimately, loneliness. Life’s fundamentals are set to a glorious color palette, quite unlike anything put to screen before, or since.

Like the film’s protagonists, life intervened and created new paths and journeys. Our friendship has been bittersweet and mellifluously melancholic, and once again, I’m opined to re-quote the following with a distinct difference:

My chemistry with her, is breathtaking to behold, and to the observing eye would appear to be far more intense, than a simple friendship. She has been, and always will be, a fulfilling treat for the eyes. So, to simply dissuade the notion that romance between the two of us would crush our beautiful friendship, is a fallacy. However, like the lead couple depicted on screen, there is a melancholic magic to our relationship, for the period of time that we’ve actually known each other is surprisingly short, yet it has been punctuated and saturated with sharp moments of bitter-sweetness along the way. If we were to rekindle the chemistry we once had, and take the relationship further, would it bring to an end our wonderfully ambiguous friendship, and result in an abrasive, coarse heartbreak?

This time, it’s time itself, that holds the answer.

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