By Nate Buchik
Photo courtesy Columbia Pictures
Wong Kar-Wai's new film '2046' is both pseudo-futuristic and foreign; two adjectives that, when put together, procreate movie magic.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 15, 2005
Wong Kar-Wai's "2046" is a thought-provoking meditation on love, loss and rebounding.
What it's not, however, is a sci-fi film, despite how it's been marketed. The year 2046 is only the setting for a story that main character Chow Wo Man (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) writes, which is shown on screen as an extension of what is going on in his life.
When the film opens in the mid-'60s, Chow is a ladies man and social butterfly who has just moved from Singapore to Hong Kong. A journalist for some kind of trashy publication, he rents an apartment (room 2046) in the city. He proceeds to write, party and love for the remainder of the film as we move forward and backward a few years through the '60s, with occasional poignant scenes from his futuristic story.
His love interests are varied, from a professional gambler named Su Li Zhen (the always-mesmerizing Li Gong) to the lovesick daughter of his landlord Wang Jen Wen to the initially hard-to-get Bai Ling (the gorgeous Ziyi Zhang).
As the film moves back and forth in time, we see how and why Chow doesn't continue any of his relationships for an extended period. Each love interest makes for a complex story that will inspire some kind of character or plot point in Chow's writing, and during a few of the strongest points in the film we see how.
While "2046" is something of a sequel to the 2000 film "In The Mood For Love," it acts more as a spiritual sequel, and doesn't require viewing of the first film. In fact, "2046" could be considered a spiritual sequel to most of Kar-Wai's canon, because he reuses dialogue and characters from previous work.
But only the idea that Chow's heart was broken in "In the Mood" is necessary information, and that can be gathered from many points in "2046."
The acting, particularly by the three females, is top notch.
7 out of 10
Faye Wong - who appeared in Wong's earlier "Chungking Express" - plays a lost girl, locked away inside herself since her Japanese lover was forbidden by her father. But Chow changes her, as he does all the women he comes into contact with.
Bai Ling eventually falls madly for Chow, and utters the too-depressing words that she will love him even if he doesn't love her back.
Su is treated well by a man for the first time, and we see how she reacts to that when Chow says he's leaving for Hong Kong.
The only thing negative to say is that the film is slow-paced, which is not a fault, but a choice. Much of Wong's work is deliberately slow, so as to give more time to digest each and every gorgeous frame. This time three different cinematographers, including Wong's usual collaborator Christopher Doyle, provide those frames.
Whoever did most of the work inside Chow's futuristic story, however, should be given most of the credit.
With help from a great visual design, the futuristic scenes are some of the most emotional. The actresses reprise their roles but exist as androids, and Chow is changed into a young Japanese man.
Thus, we not only get a film about love, but also about how it inspires us to create art, which obviously happened to Kar-Wai.