As Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love turns two decades old, it’s difficult to put into words the significance this particular work has had on not only cinematic history, but on the lives, hearts and minds of viewers it has touched over the years. To this day, it still lingers as a masterpiece of both its time and of the moment, constantly being discovered and rediscovered. It has been exhaustively written about by film scholars, lauded by critics and placed on a wide variety of lists, including a 2016 survey by the BBC that named it the second-best film of the 21st century.

Set in 1962, In the Mood for Love follows Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung as a pair of strangers who move into neighboring apartments on the same day. A discovery about their spouses bonds them in intimately unique ways that continue to blossom, and Wong Kar Wai rigorously investigates the longing and fleeting moments of their relationship. The score repeats itself often, plunging us into romance, while the cinematography by Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping-bing evokes aches and beauty in equal measure.

The film’s original title was intended to translate as “the age of blossoms” or “the flowery years,” which is a Chinese metaphor relating to the ephemeral nature of time, relationships, youth, beauty, love and everything else the movie places under scrutiny. And, at its core, In the Mood for Love is most certainly a work of art that follows the trajectory of a flower. It blooms, becomes beautiful, then withers away, yet the vivid recollections of its gorgeousness do not. The same can be said of the relationship between the film’s two main characters, which is blisteringly tragic, with sad yet splendid developments that wrap themselves around the viewer and refuse to release the tension.

The most lasting impacts of the film rely on memory, both in its aesthetics and its stirring emotional soul. It ends with a quote that is difficult to shake if the movie has an impact: “He remembers those vanished years. As though looking through a dusty window pane, the past is something he could see, but not touch. And everything he sees is blurred and indistinct.” It perfectly sums up the power of reminiscence, as well as its limitations. Like a flower, nothing quite lasts in its beauty, and we see this in the relationship portrayed within In the Mood for Love. But regardless, the emotions truly stick, as do the film’s indelible images of striking color palettes and beautifully orchestrated mise en scène.

Now, 20 years later, In the Mood for Love finds itself restored in 4K for a new World of Wong Kar Wai package from Janus Films, which is a current touring retrospective of brand-new restorations of seven of this filmmaker’s most dazzling films. It’s rightfully deserved for a master such as Wong, and In the Mood for Love is arguably the flower that blooms the best amongst his many works. But it’s a flower that continues to plant seeds in the minds of those who witness it, and because of that, it’s sure to live forever.

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