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Movie Poster of the Week: Wong Kar-wai’s “In the Mood for Love”

A superb fan poster for the film that was the inspiration for MUBI.
In the Mood for Love poster

This superb fan poster by Rebecca Leigh for In the Mood for Love fills a void. I felt that there was never a really great poster for Wong Kar-wai’s masterpiece which was a crying shame since if ever a film both deserved and lent itself to an extraordinary graphic interpretation it was that one. The posters that do exist, like the American, French and Japanese designs below, all make do with Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung looking beautifully languid, utterly gorgeous and ineffably sad, and perhaps that’s all that one needs, but none of them do anything to quite match the soul and invention of Wong’s film.

In the Mood for Love posters

Leigh’s poster, however, is something else. In one lovely composite image it captures the solitude, the longing and the impossibility of Wong’s brief re-encounters. The blurred, streaked background, turning half the poster into a purely abstract design (shades of the Japanese Punch Drunk Love), evokes for me the buzzing heat of a Hong Kong summer afternoon (even though the timeline says it’s Spring), but also seems to nod to cinematographer Christopher Doyle’s earlier work for Wong, with its artful smears and expressionistic ghosting. Leigh explained her timeline to me as something that “marks when their hope for a relationship with each other is replaced with acceptance that nostalgia is all they’ll ever get—only memories exist from this point on. Though April isn’t specifically mentioned, that it’s Springtime is indicated by the weather and blooming flowers outside the apartment when each returns.”

In the Mood for Love is, for those who don’t know, a talismanic film for MUBI since the site you are on might not have existed were it not for this film. As legend has it, the founder and guiding light of MUBI, Efe Cakarel, was sitting in a Tokyo cafe with his laptop, about five years ago, when he found himself desperately in the mood for In the Mood for Love. Frustrated that there was no way to stream it right there and then he decided to build an international site for great art cinema, and MUBI was born. A void was filled. 

A few postscripts: When I first saw the poster, it was in my Tumblr feed sitting right above the latest entry from Movie Bar Code, the site that ingeniously compresses an entire movie into a single barcode-like design of vertical stripes of color (that’s Sixteen Candles below). What struck me first was how much the blurred lines of the In the Mood for Love poster echoed that bar code.

Rebecca Leigh also runs a movie poster website called Poster Collective (brilliantly subtitled “Wall Things Considered”) which she and a friend started last September. She has a few other designs of her own on her own website and a beautifully designed infographic resume if anyone is looking to hire.

My companion Tumblr site Movie Poster of the Day was featured last week, alongside Movie Bar Code and a number of other terrific sites, on Flavorpill’s list of Essential Tumblrs for Film Fans.

And the actual moviebarcode for In the Mood for Love can be seen here.

rado
Yes!
Amazing poster <3
Right on on Adrian! I always wondered how such a sublime film didn’t have a fitting poster art. Definitely feels complete now. Hope they use something similar whenever they release a remastered version of this film in Criterion.
Deleted
really nice poster!
Deleted
Even better than the film.;)
Possibly my favorite poster for my favorite film, though I cannot help but point out that James Seo constructed the idea back in April of 2005 for wongkarwai.net’s calendar series: More of his work from the series can be found here.
Prabs
You can just pluck out any scene from his films and make it a deservable poster but that one certainly is good at showing the underlying theme and mood of the film.
Hi everyone, In response to Life as Fiction’s comment: Well spotted! I came across James’ calendar when I was searching for a texture to tie the two sides of the piece together. It was just the thing and as he’s got a high res version available for download on his site, I went ahead and used it. I feel I must point out that I made this not only as a tribute to ITMFL but also simply as a personal exercise in designing film posters—I didn’t think it’d be getting so much attention! Please know, that had I made it for commercial purposes, I would have absolutely contacted James about using his calendar as an element in my piece (and the distributor for use of the images from the film for that matter). As it stands, however, they were merely used for practice! :) Honestly, I couldn’t be more pleased with the warm responses it’s received. Thanks so much! It’s very encouraging and means a lot to me.
It is a very nice design, Rebecca. :-) Just like the rest of the commentators above, I think it does a very good job – certainly a better one than the original posters – of capturing the feeling, or should I say mood, of the film. You could definitely delve more into film poster-design, ’tis an honourable craft!

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