Chow (Tony Leung), a writer living in a hotel in Hong Kong in the 60s, is trying to escape the painful memories of a failed liaison. He's a confirmed bachelor and a natural heartbreaker. Chow is writing a futuristic romance novel set in 2046, while indulging his passion for the women who live across the hallway in Room 2046 - including the beautiful but elusive Bai Ling (Ziyi Zhang). He also meets Su Li Zhen (Li Gong) - a woman whose name is the same as his lost love from the past (Maggie Cheung).
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Memory, regret, lost love, loneliness and the way life relegates these elements into the timeline of our consciousness saturates Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love (2000) and now 2046. The latter is an expansion on the former, a sequel if you like but without the baggage a commercial sequel might bring. Here, the mystery of the deepest recesses of human emotion are plundered for cinematic play.
We are introduced to this netherworld with the sound of rain, heaven pouring its heart out, to reinforce the visceral mood that Chris Doyle's images conjure before our eyes. Doyle's approach here is to use inner contradiction to achieve mood: his lighting is warm, but he underlights so as to create noirish visual tension. He - or his director - also introduce a style motif in many scenes, which consists of an object or a wall in soft focus in the foreground blocking about a third of the frame. This is widescreen, so it still leaves plenty of room on the screen, but the result is a constriction that plays into the film's neo-claustrophobic imagery.
Much of this is supposed to be subliminal, but Wong kar-Wai's pace is such that we can absorb these details quite readily. In some respects this works for the film's internal effects, but also has an elongating effect which undercuts the emotional dynamics.
All the same, with his dream cast very much on side and committed to his mysterious screenplay, there are no scenes that could be cut without loss of texture. It is propelled by insistently melancholy strings that repeat the haunting theme, aided by hits from the 40s and 50s (where the mood is probably centred), ranging from a Nat King Cole Christmas carol to Sway (With Me).
2046 is a real film lover's work, ready to be plundered for the joys of immersion in its themes.
Review by Louise Keller:
In the Mood for Love was a film about secrets, and Wong Kar-Wai's hauntingly beautiful melancholy film companion 2046, is about memories. Love is the central component in this romantic and poetic film that delivers frame after frame of images that are simply caressed. Composition is an essential ingredient to its look, and characters are often shot from behind and in profile. Eye contact becomes a feature when pensive eyes that have been avoiding a gaze, suddenly connect. Music is used as an emotional lever with violins weeping their musical tears to great effect. 2046 is a melancholy film whose timeline is as elastic as a well-oiled trombone. Although set in the late sixties, it leap frogs back and forth from a fictional future that reflects on what was, and what might have been.
Tony Leung reprises his role as Chow, a writer of fiction who is living a life of one night stands and working in a job as a journalist that obviously is unimportant to him. His mission is to forget the woman he looks for in all women - Maggie Cheung's Su Li-zhen, with whom he fell so hopelessly in love, years ago. But love is all about timing, and the timing is never right. So Chow starts writing a novel about a train heading for 2046, a destination where people go to relive the memories of their past. No one ever returns from this journey, with the exception of Chow's central character, a young man who looks a lot like him, and whose recollections seem to be a collision of his own life and the world in his imagination.
Superb cinematography from our own Christopher Doyle and there's something potent about the way Wong Kar-Wai portrays women as exquisite, shapely creatures, who dress as women should dress. Their faces are porcelain with perfectly arched eyebrows, lips that blush like a ruby, and fitted sequined gowns that hug all the curves. The most memorable of Chow's relationships is that with Zhang Ziyi's Bai Ling, who moves into Room 2046 in the boarding house where he lives. Opera is played loudly here by the landlord who is muffling a family row. 'Are you frightened I'll cling to you?' Bai Ling asks as they become intimate, and his token $10 payment for each encounter signals his need to emotionally remain devoid of debt. Gong Li is mesmerising as the professional gambler who always wears a black glove, and when Chow kisses her, it is a kiss of which Rhett Butler would no doubt approve.
2046 is about rainbows after rain, teardrops that fall and secrets that are whispered into hidden places. Romantic and poetic, Wong Kar-Wai reinforces the mystery of love, this unfathomable and overwhelming emotion that allows time to skip an hour, a hundred or even a thousand. And happy endings are not mandatory - even if the protagonist is writing the novel.
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CAST: Tony Leung, Gong Li, Faye Wong Ziyi Zhang, Takuya Kimura, Carina Lau, Wang Sum and Maggie Cheung
PRODUCER: Wong Kar-Wai
DIRECTOR: Wong Kar-Wai
SCRIPT: Wong Kar-Wai
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Christopher Doyle
EDITOR: William Chang
MUSIC: Peer Raben, Shigeru Umebayashi
PRODUCTION DESIGN: William Chang
RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 26, 2005