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Review: 2046 (2004) By Ken Lee
Several years in the making and highly anticipated, _2046_ (2004) should pacify director Wong Kar Wai's fans, at least, for its end-of-an-era feel and look. At its core, this is a decidedly (or deceptively) simple movie, in spite of its fractured and non-linear narrative. It tells the tale of an emotionally wrecked man, Chow Mo Wan (played by Tony Leung), a reprised character from Wong's critically acclaimed earlier oeuver, _In the Mood for Love (2000)_, and the many beautiful women he keeps and fails to keep, in a time-space continuance that is laden with sepia-tinted memories: a monologue, if you will, of Chow's torrid love affairs, love spats, and the ensuing heartbreaks resulting, no doubt, from the pangs of a failed liaison Chow is trying to escape. It'd appear that the failed relation with Su Lizhen (Maggie Cheung) in _In the Mood for Love_, who has a "special appearance" in this film, has changed Chow irrevocably, which is key to understanding Chow's troubled soul.
But it is not a sequel necessarily, per se, to _In the Mood for Love_. This film can still be watched on its own, though it'd certainly help if you could link moments in _2046_ to the director's earlier works, for it's laden with jumbled continuity (take the character of Lulu, for example, first seen in _Days of Being Wild (1991)_), hidden meanings (read: Neo-Godardian) and other fun stuff, sorta an insider's joke, if you dig such esoteric things. But I digress. And it's been said that this is a culmination of all the previous filmic experience of director Wong (bordering on narcissism); hence its "end-of-an-era" feel and look is duly appreciated and a point well taken.
In _2046_, Chow's isn't an easily likable character owing to the frailty and the vagaries of his own personal emotions and peccadilloes, but that makes him only human and real, and his character, believable. Take the following exchange:
Su Lizhen (Gong Li) to Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung): Do you know my past?
Professional gambler Su (she who is of the same name as that of Maggie's character in _In the Mood for Love_) asked Chow, dissonantly, questioning the latter essentially whether there is a future for the both of them, if he cannot forget his past. And it's for the same reason, or so we're led to believe, that Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi) is left devastated, as Chow cannot treat her any differently from the scores of other women he's seeing; hence eliciting the following memorable line from Bai which I'm sure speaks to most of us one way or another:
Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi) to Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung): You may not like me. But I'll like you all the same.
What fools we are made by love. :)
Contrasting Chow as a man who dwells in the past and in need of closure to move on, Tak (Kimura Takuya) isn't ambiguous when it comes to matters of the heart.
Tak (Kimura Takuya) to Wang Jingwen (Faye Wong): I do not know what your answer may be. (I dread to know.) But I need to know.
Here is a man who is not afraid to love and says his love. And he needs to know if his love is unrequited. And in seeking happiness, the message seems to be that there is no other way. Now why does this remind me of all the sorry tales with which we are all-too-familiar with men-who-cannot-commit-or-decide? :) And so the film is thusly replete with impressions of repeated variations of the same theme: the pointlessness of returning to the past. Which is why we have the following line:
Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi) to Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung): Why can't it be like before? (The same reason why nobody returns on the 2046 train, in Chow's sci-fi novel of the same name. Seen in this light, it is also a double-entendre for director Wong: Why can't this film be like the one before in the form of _In the Mood for Love_? Where does he go from here?)
Those familiar with Wong's earlier works will notice his signatures throughout: quick cutting, slow motion, fast motion, freeze frames, black and white, tilt shots, color filters, neon-sign lighting, aided ably by three able cinematographers. Production value of _2046_ is expectedly top-notch. Music by Shigeru Umebayashi is haunting and sets the right mood. Zhang Suping (William Chang Suk Ping) does a wonderful job in creating an enrapturing atmosphere set in the late '60s.
How great it is, in an otherwise desolate world of unease, vulnerability, hopelessness, and pathos, we have directors such as Wong to feast our senses. Highly recommended.
2046 was directed by Kar Wai Wong, who also directed In the Mood for
Love. This film is also lyrical, deliberately paced, and very romantic.
Without giving too much away, the film takes place in Hong Kong and Singapore in the 60's. The main character, Chow, is a writer and womanizer. Part of the story takes place in his work, a science fiction tale called 2046.
The story is told out of sequence, with past and present jumbled. In a clever use of irony, we gradually understand that the future is being used to tell the past. Some scenes are presented early, in a way that is confusing until the context is presented later.
There are 3 female characters who are in his life, and the story is segmented accordingly.
The cinematography is beautiful. Interestingly, Wong uses 3 colors nearly exclusively: Blood red, sea green, and yellow. Sometimes he will use light to make those colors stand out, other times it is the objects themselves which are in that color.
I would characterize the story as one of love and loss. There is one poignant scene where, after he realizes what has been happening, he states that timing is crucial in love.
The film is well acted, the characters are understandable if not necessarily ones we can identify with, and the story gradually allows itself to be revealed, a peek here and a peek there, until all the pieces fall into place.
Turn off the lights, cuddle up with a glass of wine, and see this one. Well worth it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is a strong tragic feeling the film has given me. The destiny of
Tony Leung is sad, trapped in the past and the future, trying to escape
the present time. There are certain scenes and shots imposing this sad
sentiment. The still-picture-like shooting blended with heart striking
music has created a space where audiences can go in and feel it.
Coincidentally, I have seen this kind of shots in Godard's 'Ten Minutes
Order' short film - a sigh of life. I remember once in an interview
Wong Kar Wai admitted he was much influenced by Godard. I really see it
in this film.
The interesting thing of this film is the director has gathered different elements from his previous films. Carina Lau is the same character she played in 'The Days being Wild', Faye Wong is from 'Chung King Express', Tony Leung has adopted some personalities of the character in 'Happy Together'; and the futuristic story '2046' is same as 'Fallen Angels', particularly the absurdity. It's like a retrospect of the director's previous works viewed at another angle.
The main part of the story where Tony Leung gets caught with Zhang Zi Yi, is the negative contrast for Tony Leung's tragic destiny. His true love, no matter Maggie Cheung, Gong Li or Faye Wong, is only in the past or future. What he has at present is something he doesn't like, trying to escape. In 'In the Mood for Love', he doesn't have the courage to take the love with Maggie Cheung because they both are married. Now in 2046 both Zhang Zi Yi and he are singles but still he doesn't have courage to take it because he is not in the mood for love again, instead he chooses to start an indecent relationship with her.
The film carries the same symbol as 'In the Mood for Love' limited space in reality. The love between Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung started in those two adjacent apartments, now Zhang Zi Yi and Tony Leung live in the small hotel in two adjacent rooms, start their relationship. Life repeats once again in the similar environment, the only difference is the choice of Tony Leung. The symbol of 'limited space in reality' is interpreted, as an element constituting the routine of life; the attitude and choice of a person in this routine is the final ingredient making up the tragic ending.
Apart from the tragic feeling, the film imposes time and space metaphor. Tony Leung basically lives in the past and future with all his love and sentiment put in these two non-existent time/space. He has no present life in this sense. The 2046 space, though not realistically existing in the film, is actually somewhere in the mind of people. Everyone in the film has such a space in his/her mind, and so are we all. We don't recognize it only because we don't want to admit it.
A film about the past, future and present is certainly not easy to master. Although the futuristic part is too robotic, the overall impact the film has is significant and remarkable. Not only Tony Leung chooses to escape the present time, the film doesn't pass through the present age either. It's another metaphor that we all dwell on the past and future trying to escape the present age, forget it as much as possible, for it's too bitter to taste and think about.
Someone chooses to dream about the future and remember the past so sweetly passing everyday. Someone does it in an opposite manner. It could be the piece of mind, or it could be the moment that determines what it would be. What I see in 2046 is a piece of tragic mind in a sad moment.
I went to watch 2046 after reading millions and millions of interviews
and reviews... seriously, it was really difficult to keep an open mind
about a movie as talked about as this... imagine 5 years of
I started watching trying my very best to keep an open mind, but after a while... i realize i din have to, gradually, my mind just goes on this journey with the story, gone were the reviews and interviews and comments. During the movie, i did not think about anything else except wat was happening in the movie. There is so much in this movie that i think i could write a novel about it.
This movie is about perceptions and memories. how a memory can dictate the way a person lives his or her life. The stories of the many girls are seen thru the eyes of the charismatic and talented Tony Leung. There are many girls in his life. All these girls have a story, a story as seen and perceived by Zhou Mu Yun.
The first story would definitely be the story of the first Su Li Zhen (Maggie Cheung) and Zhou Mu Yun, this is the story that shaped Zhou's life, even though in this movie, Maggie only appears in a few shots. but the basis is all laid out in "In the Mood for Love".
The second story is lulu's (Carina Lau) story. The meeting described by Zhou took place in the time span after "Days of Being Wild". I find it such a pity that Wong Kar Wai edited out so much of Lulu's story. I would really wish to have seen more of it.
Then there is the story of the second Su Li Zhen in Singapore. The mysterious woman who wears one black glove. Zhou finds new solace in her. Using her to fill up the gap left by the first Su.
The saddest story in in movie will have to be Bai Yun's(ZHang ZiYi). She definite loves Zhou with all her heart, but he treats her like a pro. At some point in the movie, i wanted to slap both Bai and Zhou. Bai for being so lovelorn, and Zhou for being so stupid, the girls he love wouldn't leave with him, now the girl that loves him so much, he refused her over and over.
The last, and definitely my favourite story would definitely be Wong Jing Wen's(Faye Wong), any mandarin speaking person would know that Wong Jing Wen is the moniker Faye Wong went with when she first started singing. Anyway... all these while i never thought Faye could act, but i guess with no anticipation, there wont be disappointment. And Faye proved that her portrayal of the hotel proprietor's daughter. Wong is the only woman in the movie that is not romantically linked to Zhou, although it was hinted that he was in love with her. Wong and her Japanese boyfriend(Takuya Kimura) were in love but Proprietor Wong refused to even meet the boy. Undaunted Takuya asked Wong to leave with him, but her refusal to give him an answer span the very basis of 2046, which Zhou aptly named "2047" in the movie. *grinz*
*Self-Indulgent Note* I am the Biggest fan of the late Jeanette Lin Tsai from the 50's Cathay era. And i have always felt that Faye looks a whole lot like her. But i will be kissing the ground that Wong Kar Wai step on, because he managed to capture Jeanette Lin's essence in Faye. Unwittingly no doubt, but it helped me indulged in a memory that i wish to forever keep in 2046.
I love story with impact, new ideas and rich characters. I love
exploring the mechanics of the thing. There are few films like 2046
proposing radical new ways of vicariously experiencing time and place.
Easily misunderstood or confusing, it can be. Understanding and
completing the 'story' in these kinds of films doesn't occur in the
films themselves. We complete them in the realm of reflection,
experience, and assumptions made in how to reflect, collect,
categorize, and morph them with our own life stories. Sometimes these
films are just a call to empathize with the filmmaker.
Wong Kar Kai is a filmmaker who calls for a personal empathy. He works to capture all the unique dynamics of romance, and how they bend our sense of time and space.
He turns his camera every which angle to try and find new vocabulary for telling a story. Well, he doesn't tell stories, he asks whether stories are found in relationships. We get pieces of stories on top of hidden stories, our focus shifts from "story" to emergent feelings out of the glimpses.
This is sophisticated, and scary when unprepared for the exotic nature. We want the familiar, but are given delicately meandering puzzles, opaque hints at beginnings, middles, and endings. Just like we don't always know at what point our own stories are unfolding. But we know the emotional states as they are lived.
Since 2046 lacks many standard cadences, it is a struggle to follow the statement through the movements. These are not even vignettes, these are a seamless series of leaps that push and pull like the emotions of day to day life. They have an indecisive flux we hope is asymptotically reaching a conclusion, but they just keep coalescing and spilling over into the imagined future from where no one has yet returned. Once we think we have moved beyond the past do we then realize that we create an unknown future by attempting to reconstruct the past in the present.
And so the main character is a writer of 'fiction' (this very movie) who through the process of embedding real life circumstances into his science fiction he also tries to determine if there is a destination this is all heading. 2046 is a place you visit to relive unchanging memories so that you will never change. Alternately, 2046 is also a time existent only within a science fiction novel when people will access substitute lovers without the haunts of what broke them in the past. So they think.
He has already been damaged by the loss of an impossible standard that cannot be met by another (see In the Mood for Love first!). So in his novel, lovers become characters. Feelings become fictional ornamentations in the future. In the present, he cannot connect with the women who come and go. In the fiction, the lack of connection is simply a matter of technological limitations.
Think about what happens in the aftermath of a failed relationship or a missed opportunity. We may grieve, but also sometimes we obsessively construct a future fantasy based on what should have happened if things had gone right; if only some vital detail didn't change things how it did. We inhabit that imagined future and interact with our counterpart ghost, making plans and times and places accordingly. We might use this process as a shield and a warning. Or it sabotages, taking on a life of its own as a mental blueprint, directing the actual present and perceptions of new companions.
Lush, poetic cinematography fills each second of this film to great mood inducing effects. In 1960's Hong Kong, where the bulk of the events take place, the dynamics of romantic encounters hide in unassuming corners of that society, only brought to light by looking at the normal world in very abnormal ways. One almost gets the impression that set pieces and abstract designations were literally dreamed up. The camera often cramps our frame of vision. Various off-center closeups which in a sense shut out the outside world, but paradoxically bring it all in to bear. There are many places where the camera does not seem to have a good shot of a character or an event, we the viewers were just unlucky to miss the opportunity of getting the full revelation of something.
And it frustrates; we want to know everything but get very little by way of visual exposition. We are forced to work on the clues, the voice overs, the symmetrical accidents in different centuries and different countries. This is not analogous to idly putting together a complex puzzle set, this is reconstructing a mystery while at the same time being on the verge of shedding tears at the quiet understanding that it isn't a mystery, it's life with a character who mediates between reality and fantasy to deal with it all. I know the kinds of things this film is about, but I've never looked at them from this stance before. As is often the case, the artist (here the writer/filmmaker) is just the one who experiences what the rest of us experience and talks about its secrets rather than conceals them.
See this film if you want to know how it's possible to visually show the invisible, inner turbulence and romantic visions that tend to hide from the outside world. On the whole, 2046 weaves in the present a future fiction invaded by the past, bred by the throes of confronting the human faces of opportunities that appear, disappear, reappear and fade and collapse into each other.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
2046 is more like the sequel to In The Mood for Love. In the latter
mentioned movie, Chow was an innocent young man caught up in a
complicated affair with Maggie Cheung after both of them discovered
that their respective spouses were cheating on them with each other.
The movie ended with a desolate Chow trying to put his feet on the ground again after losing Su Lizhen(Maggie Cheung).
I did not realize that 2046 was a sequel only until i was about 1/4 into the movie. His fate with women is not too good eh? Either he plays them around like some game or he falls in love with the women he cant have. Yet he's not out of league when he fell for Faye Wong's, Gong Li's, or Maggie's character.
Perhaps that's because after losing Su Lizhen in the first movie, 2046 only shows how despondent a man can be after being rejected in love. in the beginning of 2046 he said: 'he started playing the game and had many one night stands, after all, how many 'once-in-a-lifetime' can you get?' With every woman he got involved in from Bai Ling to Wang Jing Wen, he was just attracted to the bits that resembled his Su Lizhen. I don't think he was actually in love with Wang Jing Wen, just in love with the fact that she can conjure up the memories of him writing with Su Lizhen in the hotel (in the first movie).
His fiction of 2046 being played out directly in the movie was just a further metaphor that was necessary for a complicated man like him to find out what he was after. In the ending of 2046, we see him, drunk and alone, riding home in a taxi. Where are all the women in his life?
Although the show tended towards dragginess at times, the screenplay was well written, the cast displayed impressive acting skills, the lighting's, stage settings and soundtrack were unique though not exempting In The Mood for Love. You can well say that Wong Kar Wai is a Tarantino in the Chinese Movies circle.
My advice is to watch In the mood for love and 2046 back to back. Perhaps after that, the mystic behind the latter will fade and the real plot comes out.
I read different takes on 2046 and its connection to its predecessor by
writer/director Wong Kar-Wai, In the Mood for Love. Some said you had
to see it before 2046, although the general consensus was that the
unusual romanticism and little details in both films, and actors like
Tony Leung and Maggie Chung, made the only real connection(s) (Wong
himself has said ironically to see 2046 before In the Mood for Love).
It seems, after seeing the film, that he was correct; I had seen half
of In the Mood for Love a while back, and I did get an idea of what I
might expect, but the fact is is that 2046 really does work fine as a
film on its own terms. It's a story that at first seems like it will be
style over substance, and at times it is, but the substance is usually
very intriguing, and keeps attention. It isn't a perfect film, and
towards the end it starts to lag, but such criticisms are made up for
by the attributes.
We learn from the narrator and lead character, Chow (Leung), that there is a place, if not a time, called 2046, where people don't leave unless they fall in love. But, for the bulk of the film, the film is not set in any kind of futuristic setting that might be assumed on the outset of going into the film. It's set in late 60's Hong Kong, where Chow writes lurid fantasy stories. He takes room 2046 after seeing a woman, Su (Li Gong), in the room. He feels that this place is where he, like others, can go to "lose memories" ("All memories are traces of tears", a title-card reads), which spurs him on the start writing a sci-fi novel with the room's title.
During his stay, he meets two women that effect him: an abused girl, at first acting aloof, Lulu/Mimi (Carina Lau), leaves and the later comes back in the film as a kind of writing assistant for Chow. The more significant woman, however, is in the form of call-girl Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi, a woman so gorgeous it borders on the unreal), who like the others takes room 2047, and becomes Chow's "drinking buddy". But this soon turns to playfulness, to a side affair. Although there is much else that goes on in the film, this has some of the best material, with wonderful dialog and style giving room for perhaps th best performance I've seen from Ziyi yet.
This is not all to the film, though it could've been and been as successful. The women in Wong's films, like with Hitchcock or even Antonioni or Godard (all directors he was obviously inspired by for his own original stance), are crucial to how it turns out. These women express everything Wong desires, abandons, represses, flirts, and acts cool with. They spur on almost every one of his creative pieces (he gives a short story of 2047 to one, who wonders why the ending is so sad, to which he cannot create a happy one), and all of the things he'd rather not forget. Without the strong performances from them all, in particular Ziyi, Lau and Cheung, the drama just wouldn't be there, and certainly the style giving much weight to the film would become over-cooked and pretentious.
The style, of which, was something I took various notes of while I watched, scribbling bits, elements, colors and shots that caught my eyes: the greens in the halls, the brightness of outside on the porch, the black and white scene in the cab (one of my favorites), and of course the futuristic visualization scenes of Chow's own 2046. What's curious about the real sci-fi type scenes is that they make little sense aside from the central point- finding real love and the exile following- but the atmosphere, use of different colors and shots and film speeds (Christopher Doyle, a DP on most of Wong's films, does beautiful work all around) is unique, and basically saves a dramatically empty sequence.
There is also the question of slow-motion, which is used to much more effect than in the previous Wong films I've seen, and if it is over-used. It becomes a distraction only towards the end, when one wishes things were not TOO romanticized, but many times it is affecting, and tries to past the melodrama in some of the (above average) writing. Overall, Wong Kar-Wai displays without a shadow of doubt with 2046 that he is a master of compositions, of moods, and of creating characters that are true to themselves, who feel and love but can't seem to reach for it. But this doesn't make it an 'empty' film. If a scene missteps or something gets irksome with the style, it comes back around at the next minutes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have been looking forward to seeing this film since the day I watched
'In the Mood For Love', and certainly was not disappointed. I have a
hard time describing this as a sequel, I would call it more of a
companion piece. I think someone could view this with only minimal
confusion if they had not seen IMFL, but I recommend that as well.
The film only follows one character from the original, and it completely focuses on his downfall. I get the feeling this was a very hard script for Wong Kar Wai to write, it seemed very personal at times. That said, the script is absolutely brilliant. One moment in particular where Chow returns a line back at one of his many women is especially sad and poignant, really adds a lot of depth to their relationship with a single sentence.
The cinematography and special effects are also beautiful, although I think the trailer plays up the sci-fi element a little too much. It does look great though, and he mimics many shots and setups from IMFL to tie them closer together.
Overall I gave this an 8, the only detractors being a bit of a boring pace at times, and the ending seems to come out of nowhere. Just all the sudden *boom* the end. Still, better than most other films made these days and a definite must see for fans of In the Mood For Love.
The movie was well above my expectation and definitely worth a wait.
Tony Leung plays the same man with "In the Mood for Love" but has a
different character. The movie is also vaguely related to "Days of
Being Wild" in 1990, co-starred by Leslie Cheung and Maggie Cheng. All
three films are about the mixture of hustle-bustle and weariness of
Hong Kong in 1960s.
Tony's performance in this film was again brilliant. Faye Wong performed in WKW film for the first time in 10 years (since "Chung King Express" in 1994, also co-starred by Tony Leung) and made this film one of a kind. Mysterious gambler Gong Li was also attractive. Zhang Ziyi gave me a positive surprise. The film's technical level (costumes, music, photography etc.) is also very high. Someone suggested 2004 Cannes Palm d'Or should have gone to this film instead of "Fahrenheit 9/11" and now I can totally agree.
The number "2046" is the metaphor of Hong Kong's destiny, which implies the last year of status-quo for 50 years guaranteed by Chinese government.
Kar Wai Wong is more than a film director (though he is one of the
finest directors working today!): he is a visual, poetic, creative and
daring artist capable of more cinematic miracles in one isolated film
than most directors achieve in a lifetime. '2046' is a visually
stunning, intellectually challenging, emotionally charged view of love
and lust in today's kinetically dysfunctional society.
There is no one way to interpret this non-linear film and therein lies much of its rewards. The main character Chow (Tony Leung) is a writer and a libertine who has pushed his vacuous life around with his hormones and though he has had many affairs he has failed to find the illusory 'love'. He has lived in Singapore and Hong Kong, makes his living writing columns of newspapers while his novels formulate in his mind. One of his novels is called '2046', the title based on the room number in a hotel where he witnessed a bizarre incident involving a gorgeous woman, and resulted in his moving into the adjoining room 2047 where is meets the hotel manager's daughter in love with a Filipino Japanese man her father loathes. He desires this unattainable woman and fuses her with a fictional 'android' in his novel which now uses '2046' as a year or time or place where people go to find memories. He continues to encounter women for whom he desires more than surface relationships (there is a stunning lady gambler cameo who represents everything he lusts and longs for, etc) but he is never able to find his tenuous ideal: his memory is his only source of consolation.
The actors in every role include many of the finest actors available: Li Gong, Ziyi Zhang, Carina Lau, Maggie Cheung, Takuya Kimura, Chen Chang, and of course Tony Leung. But it is Kar Wai Wong, the writer, director, choreographer, colorist, visionary that makes this excursion into the interstices of the mind/imagination so overwhelmingly satisfying. Whether the viewer elects to view the story as a continuation of the director's previous films, or as reality vs memory, fiction vs imagination, sci-fi excursion, or simply a plethora of vignettes about the challenges of finding love in a world geared toward instant gratification, this is a magnificent achievement. In many ways the sound track could be turned off (though the beautiful musical score by Peer Raben and Shigeru Umebayashi with a lot of help from Maria Callas! would be missed), and the inventive cinematography and visual image manipulations by Christopher Doyle, Pung-Leung Kwan and Yiu-Fai Lai such as the constant dividing of the screen into triptychs and diptychs would remain some of the most beautiful photographic images on film.
This is not an easy film to follow and it is most assuredly one that will grow in importance with repeated viewings. The comparison with Alain Resnais' 'Last Year at Marienbad' suggests its potency. But free the mind and enter into the world of '2046' for one of the most satisfying cinematic achievements of the recent past. Very highly recommended. Grady Harp
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