director: Wong Kar-Wai
starring: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Faye Wong, Zhang ZiYi, Gong Li, Carina Lau, Takuya Kimura
Have you ever been in love, or had a romantic relationship, with someone who was totally flippin’ awesome? Like the best in the world? And then broken up with them only to find that, for years afterwards, every person you are involved with is merely a vain attempt to recapture the craptacular experience of that original person? If so, you will definitely like the movie 2046, because that is basically the dilemma of the film’s main character Chow Mo-Wan, played by veteran Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu-Wai.
Released in 2004, and taking a whopping 4 years to complete, 2046 is the 3rd chapter in a series of romantic films written and directed by acclaimed Hong Kong film director Wong Kar-Wai. The other two movies in the series are Days of Being Wild(1991) and In the Mood for Love(2000).
A womanizing writer of pornographic fiction serials, Chow Mo-Wan(Tony Leung Chiu Wai), tries to recapture the memory of his lost love by pursuing various women all of whom vaguely remind him of his old flame and former neighbor Su Li-Zhen(Maggie Cheung Ho-Yi). The new women include Chow Mo-Wan’s new neighbor, Bai Ling(Zhang Zhiyi) who works as a beautiful nightclub singer and also a high-class prostitute; Chow Mo-Wan’s landlord’s strange love-sick daughter Wang Jing Wen(Faye Wong) who is herself totally smitten in love with a sensitive emotionally awkward Japanese business man(Takuya Kimura); and a mysterious Cambodian card hustler also named Su Li-Zhen(Gong Li). During the course of his romantic pursuits Chow Mo-Wan writes the various people he encounters into his own fictionalized future world, 2046-- which happens to be the same number of the room he secretly shared with his lost love.
Why this Movie is Freakin Good:
Ok So… In addition to beautiful cinematography and an outstanding soundtrack- that are pure eye and ear candy… 2046 features stellar acting performances by the entire cast. Very real acting that is both subtle and viscerally passionate. One gets the voyeuristic feeling of peeking into reality.
In 2046, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai demonstrates his acting talent by playing a role that directly contrasts with the character from the previous film. The protagonist from In the Mood for Love was an endearing, cuckold who had a platonic love affair with his hot, cheong-sam wearing neighbor. In 2046, we see the character has degenerated into a slimy, seedy, womanizing asshole with a moustache. He is both desperate and pathetic in his predatory pursuit of women in order to quench his desire to relive the memories of his past love affair. Despite this huge asshole surface factor, it is an underlying yearning for this faded love that makes Chow Mo-Wan’s character pathetically human and romantically endearing to the viewer. Through the demonstration of this remarkable character transformation and the fact that he is able to command a storyline while playing across several actresses of immense acting talent and physical beauty Tony Leung Chiu-Wai proves his supremely 733T abilities as an actor.
That said, the actresses in 2046 are simply outstanding.
Zhang ZiYi gives a very human and thoughtful portrayal of Bai-Ling, a young independent woman who is in love with the main character in spite of herself. A glamorous nightclub singer/call girl, she starts off as playing the upper hand of seductress in a little game of platonic friendship, but winds up another victim of the game of lust and love as perpetrated by the main character. She tries to hide her feelings for Chow Ho-Man, but every time she makes some stupid mistake that belies her true feelings. All the while one gets the impression Chow gloats secretly in triumph.
Gong Li gives a wise and deep performance in her role as “The Black Spider” Su Li-Zhen. She’s basically a femme fatale with a heart of gold. She seems to know Chow better than he knows himself. A rather tragic figure.
Carina Lau reprises her role as the nightclub singer Lulu from Days of Being Wild and also plays an android in 2046. She offers an example for Chow of the consequences of staying in trapped in the past.
This DVD has a lot of cool extras. There are a couple of documentaries that have behind the scenes footage. It’s really interesting learning about the process that went into making the movie especially the interviews of the various stars. In addition there are three deleted scenes that add to the viewer’s experience including an alternate ending. Finally there is a section featuring some pictures of posters and even a section devoted to the soundtrack.
Director Wong Kar Wai’s storytelling style is rather unorthodox compared to other movies. It is a very poetic movie that has an interweaving storyline that jumps around creating a very dreamlike experience. The only criticisms I can think of are that some of the finer points of the story might be lost on the viewer if they haven’t seen the first two movies before hand. Plus, the pacing of the film might feel a bit erratic to people who are used to more traditional story development structures. In this sense, 2046 feels almost like a novel rather than a film. Regardless, this movie kicks ass. And if you like tortured romance type dramas you will love this movie. The cinematography is awesome. The soundtrack rocks. And the acting is of high quality.
Other movies I would recommend if you liked this one are:
In the Mood For Love, Chun King Express, Days of Being Wild, Dangerous Liasons, and The Libertine.