About the music of : In the Mood for Love

About the music of : In the Mood for Love

por remi mourany


Music is vital in Wong Kar-wai's films, serving not just to create atmosphere but to evoke memories. He once said, "When I arrived in Hong Kong at the age of five, the first thing that struck me were the sounds of the city, which were completely different from those in Shanghai."

In Wong Kar-wai’s films, music often acts as a temporal marker. In his early films, jukeboxes almost become characters themselves; in In the Mood for Love, the radio takes on this role. Wong Kar-wai carefully curated songs from the 1960s to evoke the era. For instance, Maggie Cheung's character listens to "Age of Bloom" by Zhou Xuan on the radio, a song that inspired the film's Chinese title, The Age of Blossoms.

The music goes deeper into history: "Age of Bloom" is from the 1946 Hong Kong film Endless Yearning starring Zhou Xuan. The soundtrack also includes original recordings of Cantonese operas, Pingtan, Yueju, and Peking opera. Some of these recordings date back to 1912 and feature the legendary Tan Xinpei, who starred in China’s first film, Dingjun Mountain (1905). These operas, adapted from literary classics, often explore themes of forbidden love and secret encounters.

The main musical theme, "Yumeji's Theme" by Shigeru Umebayashi, originally from Seijun Suzuki’s film Yumeji (1991), is a haunting waltz that underscores the interactions between Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) and Su Lizhen (Maggie Cheung). This theme, with its string arrangement, mirrors the delicate dance of their relationship.

Latin American music also pervades the film. Wong Kar-wai selected songs by Nat King Cole, a favorite of his mother, whose imported standards were popular on Hong Kong radio. Tracks like "Quizás, Quizás, Quizás" (Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps), "Te Quiero Dijiste," and "Aquellos Ojos Verdes" evoke themes of longing and melancholy, echoing the film’s mood of lost love.

Michael Galasso composed the score for Chow’s solitary visit to Angkor Wat, four years after his affair with Su. The lingering regret and haunting strings of these pieces perfectly complement Umebayashi's main theme.


Michael Galasso

Michael Galasso (April 5, 1949 - September 9, 2009) was an American composer, musical director, and violinist. Trained in classical music, he composed for theater, film, dance, and installations, blending baroque influences with sounds from Iran and Central Asia. He was a key collaborator of choreographer Bob Wilson, composing for works such as Ouverture (1972), The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin (1973), A Letter for Queen Victoria (1974), Strindberg’s Dream Play (1998), Chekhov’s Three Sisters (2001), and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (2002).

Galasso worked with other choreographers like Karole Armitage, Andy DeGroat, and Lucinda Childs. In film, his collaborations on Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-wai gained him international acclaim. He also scored Secret Ballot by Babak Payami, Rashevski’s Tango by Sam Garbarski, Camur by Darvish Zaim, Histoire d’un Secret by Mariana Otero, and Sequins (2004) by Eléonore Faucher. Shortly before his death, he won the César for Best Original Score for Séraphine (2008) by Martin Provost. Galasso also created numerous sound installations, including one for the Giorgio Armani retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum, which traveled to Bilbao, Berlin, London, Rome, and Tokyo. He released two albums, Scenes (1982) and High Lines (2005), on ECM Records. He lived in Paris from 2002 until his death and is buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery.


Shigeru Umebayashi*


Shigeru Umebayashi, born on February 19, 1951, in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, is a renowned Japanese composer. He began his career in music as a member of the new wave band EX and transitioned to film composition in 1985 after the band disbanded. Umebayashi has composed scores for over forty films, including the last four by Wong Kar-wai: The Grandmaster (2013), My Blueberry Nights (2007), 2046 (2004), and In the Mood for Love (2000), which features his iconic "Yumeji's Theme."

His other notable works include scores for Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers (2004) and Curse of the Golden Flower (2006), Yuen Woo-ping's True Legend (2010) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016), Ronny Yu's Fearless (2006), Tom Ford’s A Single Man, Peter Webber's Hannibal Rising (2007), and Michael Winterbottom's Trishna (2011). In 2018, Umebayashi ventured into video game music, scoring Ghost of Tsushima for Sucker Punch, released in 2020 on PlayStation 4.