There's a maturity to this film over some of the director's previous work. It's a technical maturity with a quiet but focused story and beautifully understated performances from the leads. And the camerawork is some of his most lush to date. But the maturity also extends to the characters. Some of his prior films dealt with younger or single people, where it felt like flirting or trysts were the film's currency.
Here we have two people who are both a little older, have been married, and understand that love is more complicated and their actions more far-reaching than perhaps they would have understand at a younger station in life. Their attraction for each other is heartbreaking because they've decided to strive for it to go unfulfilled, regardless of their current pain.
Even in their abandonment, they resolve not to do to someone else what has been done to them. They understand that even if they could begin something together and have it go undetected by anyone else, it would do harm by changing them, who they are as people. Their constant reassurance to each other that "we won't become like them" means more than that they simply shouldn't get together.
There are many deleted scenes and abandoned paths in the supplemental section which show that at different points the story could have gone in a much different direction. Wong Kar-Wai famously doesn't work with a script and instead builds the story during the shooting and by letting the actors create characters and where they might go.
We see those experiments on this release, as well as the wise decision to let them go unused. Instead, what we are given is a film that's left a little more open-ended, where the plot doesn't come to a definitive end but begins a conversation about what could become of these characters or what others might have done in their place. It's an art film in the truest sense, because it draws in the viewer to engage with the work, and to fill in some intentional spaces, instead of dictating the one-path journey to follow.
Video / Audio
There are moments in the opening shots where it actually looks like this could have been shot in the 60s. The rich colors of the outfits and sets are sometimes slightly over-saturated, and set against the light noise from the print. Both issues aren't ever-present, and while they could probably be "cleaned up", I actually found them appropriate anomalies for the period of the setting. Detail is overall very good, and comes through beautifully in some of the many close-up scenes. Both Christopher Doyle and Mark Li Ping-Bin as co-Directors of Photography (shooting at different intervals during the production, and in truth its impossible to tell who did what) deliver drop-dead gorgeous images, scene after scene. There are no artifacts or anomalies to merit a mention, and as long as you're ok with a little noise and light over-saturation on some of the high-color shots, you'll enjoy a beautiful high-definition transfer.