2046 (Wong Kar-wai, 2004)


Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Chow Mo-wan), Li Gong (Su Li-zhen), Faye Wong (Wang Jing-wen), Takuya Kimura (Tak), Ziyi Zhang (Bai Ling), Carina Lau (Lulu), Maggie Cheung (Su Li-zhen). Screenplay by Wong Kar-wai. Directed by Wong Kar-wai. Rating: 12. Running time: 129 minutes.

If Chungking Express feels like a scrapbook, a rapid-fire mash-up of sublime style, then in comparison, 2046 is probably Wong Kar-wai’s intensely perfected masterpiece. It feels rounded and magical in a way I now realise none of his other films do. Not only is every scene carved out as if its director were a painter, spending months on his wall-size canvas, each frame having an Almodovaresque level of stunning attention to detail. Not only are we treated to an overdose of Tony Leung’s charm, to the extent that even when he sports a moustache and is now brought to us as a suave player who never got over the love affair in this film’s precursor, In The Mood For Love; even now he carries such affection from his audience that he can only be likened to James Stewart, another actor who similarly acquired and retained such trust from his viewers for the entirety of his career. Not only this, though, but in 2046 we even get a story so layered and rich in its depth, so originally told, that we sail through it so calmly that the two hours feel like a dream.

One arc of the story is as futuristic as the title implies, allowed for by the use of Chow’s new novel. It acts as a gateway into this world apparently stocked with happiness, a world unchanging, and thus ideal, for those who don’t want their love affairs to be contingent. If Chow had heard of Cobb and Mal from this year’s Inception, their pleasant time in limbo would probably be the kind of thing he was trying to capture, contrasting rather starkly with his own past experiences, that provide the real inspiration for and antithesis of the world imagined here.

On top of this, though, 2046 is Wong Kar-wai also doing what he does best: setting his film in communal surroundings, continuing his fascination with chance encounters and filming the development of bonds between strangers. None of the relationships here quite reach the intensity of the one developed in In The Mood For Love, but that was inevitable when, firstly, instead of focusing on one, here instead we have five, and secondly when all of the relationships we see here are predicated on and created by what happened in the previous film. It is no wonder that Chow now reacts very differently to the women he meets.

But despite his smoothness now being channeled into one night stands, and despite his neighbours often being seductive or just overtly prostitutes, even in the most carnal and lustful of the relationships present here there somehow remains something beautifully Platonic about them. Imagining mindless behaviour in Wong Kar-wai films is an attempt at imagining the absurd. The characters here know precisely how they feel, and think on a level so highly elevated because of the intelligence of their creator. A level of intelligence, unfortunately, that I can only wildly dream of ever matching in the creative realm, and probably not even reach merely in the field of criticism. This is so evidently worthy of analysis beyond what I am capable of that it pains me to even attempt to do the film justice. See it, and be as awe-inspired as me. There’s little that is quite this beautiful and solemnly contemplative in the world.

One Response to “2046 (Wong Kar-wai, 2004)”

  1. 1 The other thirteen (Part 2) « jacob williamson | thoughts on film

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