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