Kar Wai Wong, best knows for "In the Mood for Love" made this experimental two-hour movie of an original 5-hour (or so) material (thank god he didn't use all of it). The title of the film refers to the last year before the 50-year period the Chinese Government promised to let Hong Kong remain as it is (Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997). Of course this has little or nothing to do with the film (whose general idea is people searching love and their identity in a futuristic Hong Kong) which is non-sensical, completely delusional and will have you wonder whether you accidentally smoked some giant pot. Nevertheless the cinematography of the futuristic Hong Kong is so artistic and beautiful that it's worth watching just (and only) for that.
Kar-wai Wong's highly effective and equally experimental film is connected to his previous cinematic triumph, "In the Mood for Love" but it is not anywhere near the genre of a "sequel."
It is instead a continuation of the male character's life long after his love has left Hong Kong. Tony Leung's "Mo-wan" has become a gambling and heavy-drinking lothario. He no longer seems concerned with the idea of "love," his focus is set on sexual pleasure and his work.
His work is deceptive. We already knew he had a passion for comic book/Sci-Fi that he shared with Maggie Cheung's character in the first film. But it would appear that his fantasy "creative work" is starting to merge into his reality.
Or is it?
Here lies the challenge of accepting "2046" as a sequel to "In the Mood for Love" -- this new film is equally interested in unconsummated love, but in a very different way.
It first seems that Chow's imaginary fantasy is that of a man taking a space trip in time that may or may not correspond to the room number of his hotel living quarters. On the space journey the man on the trip appears to be Chow (Tony Leung) dressed in futuristic attire and sporting long hair. There is a female on board who becomes an obsession for the traveler. She is possibly a Japanese Robot. Or she might be an alternate substitute for Maggie Cheung's character who left the possibility of love when she left Chow to return to her husband.
This is a truly gorgeous film. Primarily shot by Christopher Doyle with two additional cinematographers lending their perspectives on film which takes many odd side steps and flows.
Sexuality plays a major role here. Chow now enjoys carnal delights but is ultimately unsatisfied. References to Christmas Eve begin to shift meanings.
Kar-wai Wong creates a truly Surreal cinematic experience in which logic, liner time lines, reality and fantasy become merged. It is hard to fully know if we are only following one character or several. It may read like a negative or confused ideology -- but it isn't. One gets the feeling that every move and every shot add up. And repeated viewings offer deeper insights.
At the end of the day, this film does not live up to the magic presented in the realistically-grounded "In the Mood for Love." But there is a solid connection between both films. And somehow Wong's convoluted film comes across with a similar central theme of question: Is it the desire for love that moves us forward or the consumption of it that fills and grounds us?
An oddly moving film. And unforgettable.
Extremely artsy-fartsy, and not in a good way. Slow, repetitive (sort of the point), not really an "exciting" movie.
Extremely self-indulgent. Some interesting and unusual cinematography, but just as many pointless, blurry shots of nothing.
I found the 10% sci-fi setting far more interesting, and I get than the real world setting is supposed to inform that, but it could have been better balanced, and probably shorter if they both worked together to progress the story. It's also weird that the sci-fi parts are in Japanese for some reason.
Decent dialogue, for what that's worth when the story is so pedestrian. 40 minutes too long.
The score was the most solid thing in this movie.
What we have here with 2046 is a magnificent romantic drama and science-fiction/fantasy masterpiece that stands above many of its peers in its respective genres as it seamlessly blends the genres together, creating a beautiful, stylish, heartfelt, heart-breaking, sexy, and thoroughly engaging film about unrequited love and loneliness. It's a very soulful film that digs deep into the characters and their troubles, without ever becoming overwrought or insincere in its methods and depictions. It tackles the most fragile of human emotions, but also one of the strongest: the want and the need for love. It's not exactly a cheerful film, but it is rather a bittersweet film with beautiful moments, but it also has its moments of heartbreak and sadness, much like the nature of love itself.
After working in Singapore for a number of years, writer/journalist Chow Mo-Wan has returned to Hong Kong to stay at a hotel where he had an affair with a woman named Su Li Zhen (His character's lover from the 2000 film, In The Mood For Love) - his most ideal woman whom he had to end an affair with years earlier. He learns the room - 2046 - where they conducted their affair in was also the room of her death, as she had been stabbed by her jealous boyfriend only the night before.
He decides to stay in room 2047 until renovations are done, but decides to stay as he has made himself quite comfortable. But room 2046 develops a new significance to him as it becomes the place where multiple troubled women make it their residence over the course of the mid-to-late 1960's ranging from the hotel owner's daughter, Wang Jin Wen, to a showgirl, Bai Ling, while he also has flashbacks of another woman named Su Li Zhen whom he met in Singapore.
The film has multiple arcs like Wang Jin Wen falling in love with a Japanese man, which her father is adamantly opposed to because of the Japanese occupation of China and struggles with her decision on whether or not to keep up the relationship. Bai Ling is a showgirl whom Chow falls for and begins a tumultuous relationship with and how her career flourishes and falls apart. In his flashbacks of the other woman named Su Li Zhen, she is a gambler known as the "Black Spider" who helps him raise money to get back to Hong Kong after draining his savings, but refuses to go with him, even though he has developed a crush on her.
During these various events, he begins writing science-fiction stories incorporating these women into them, all involving the year 2046, where people in the future travel to to recapture lost memories and where nothing ever changes, which is why those who travel there never come back, except for a Japanese man named Tak, who falls in love with an android during the train ride to 2046. Chow's stories provide his escape from the real world, though he lives in the past with them, as he lets these women whom he grows to care for slip through his fingers because of his idealization of the first Su Li Zhen he knew years earlier.
The story is very multi-faceted and multi-layered with a wealth of interesting characters to explore. Each character has a soul, even the very elusive ones, like the second Su Li Zhen. Chow is probably the most interesting character as he observes the troubled women he meets, struggles with letting go of the past, losing the woman he loved most, and buries himself in a science-fiction fantasy of his innermost desires and thoughts, and then coming to certain realizations about his own life. It's also a film about not taking the time to enjoy the present and see what is right in front of you, only to realize what you had too late. It's basically an all-encompassing story about the flaws of human nature trying to cope with the realities of life and what we lose in the process of hiding, escaping, and idealizing what can simply never be.
It also does a great job at exploring the various levels of what it feels like to be in love: the good times, the bad times, the unrequited, the forbidden, the feelings of ecstasy, the lust of course, the heartbreak, the letting go, the pleasure, revealing one's inner self, idealizations of love, the sadness, and everything in between. I think that it really does explore all these elements, and quite well, too. It's an honest film that bravely tackles all these elements.
The acting across the board is quite stellar, but then again, it'd better be good considering that this film amassed a great deal of talent like Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang, Faye Wong, Gong Li, and more. Tony Leung as Chow was probably the best performance as the lovesick writer living too much in the past and not in the present, and he believably performs a wide variety of elements like love, regret, sadness, humor, and also empathy towards these women he meets, like helping Faye Wong's character, Wang Jin Wen, muster the courage to run off with her Japanese boyfriend, or helping out Ziyi Zhang's Bai Ling character even after their relationship has ended.
That's not to say the other actors were slackers. Oh, hell no. In fact, I don't think I would be able to accurately sum up all the great performances because there are so many in this film, and especially as they are all so different from one another. The simplest way is to say that all of the acting is absolutely stellar. This is a great example of doing an ensemble film well.
As this film is a multi-genre piece, there is a lot for a viewer to find here for entertainment. But in its simplest form, it is a phenomenal drama with the great support of romance, science-fiction, and fantasy deepening the quality of the film-making and storytelling elements. It's a very story-oriented film with rich characters and an unusual premise, bolstered by beautiful visuals and a superb soundtrack. There is never a dull moment or a lack of wonder to behold. There is always something, even if subtle, going on at all times and you will always be eager to dig to see what lies in it. I can't properly describe the wonder, the emotional elements, or anything else about this film - you must see it for yourself to behold it in all its glory.
2046 has certainly cemented itself as one of the greatest love stories of our time, and certainly one of my personal favorites. If you like any of the genres this film is classified under, or if you love any great film regardless of genre, 2046 is a must-see because of its tremendous depth and emotional power. GO. WATCH. IT. NOW.