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08 August 2006

2046 (2004)

Tony Leung (Chow Mo Wan), Zhang Ziyi (Bai Ling), Takuya Kimura (Tak), Faye Wong (Wang Jing Wen)

Directed by Wong Kar Wai (In the Mood for Love)

Languages: Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese (and one song by Nat King Cole)

Summary: Set in 1960s Hong Kong, a writer named Chow fanciful allegories to understand his many failed love affairs and the nature of longing, secrets, and memory.

This sequel to In the Mood for Love takes a strange turn away from the stylish realm of 1960s Hong Kong, with all of its playful and sexy tango tunes, incredible costumes, and smoldering sensuality...into the stylish world of a futuristic landscape with all of the above in spades. Tony Leung resumes his role as Chow Mo Wan as we catch up with him some three years after he abandons the hotel in which he fell in love with Maggie Cheung's Su Li Zhen, a married woman. She lived in room 2046. They make out.

In 1963, Chow meets another woman named Su Li Zhen, a Cambodian gambler played by Gong Li. They make out.

In 1966, he meets a neighbor in a new hotel, also in room 2046 - a high-class Holly Golightly style hooker played by Zhang Ziyi. They make out lots.

Then he manages to fall in love with the hotel owner's daughter, played by Faye Wong, who happens to be in love with a Japanese man her father refuses to even meet. They do not make out, which is a testament to how much he cared for her. I think.

The whole thing ends very morosely, with poor Chow stuck on his fictional train to 2046, a futuristic place where everyone seeks the memories of yesteryear. Initially, he had hoped to be the one person who might escape that realm of the past, but no such luck. On the train out of town, even the androids remind the poor guy about the chances he has had and lost. Or rather, they remind his fictional persona - the same Japanese guy in love with the hotel owner's daughter. I advise you not to attempt coming into this film half-way through, and advanced knowledge of the different actresses (because lingering cameras, repeated scenery, and similar bouffant hair styles tended to make anonymous even the most distinctive features) will help keep everyone in their proper places.

As with the other films I have seen by Wong Kar Wai, this movie was incredibly stylish, fraught with meaning, tediously slow in places, and just mysterious enough to keep me curious. Tony Leung did his very best Clark Gable - moustache, lop-sided grin and all. Zhang Ziyi demonstrated a simply amazing range of emotions as the woman particularly destroyed by Chow's disregard for her affections. Gong Li and Maggie Cheung were mere blips on the screen by comparison, figuring into the story very briefly (lest the screen explode with too much female Chinese goddess goodness). And Faye Wong was a living doll, complete with a little baby nose, an adorable overbite, and the biggest eyes this side of anime.

Wong did an amazing job of conflating the over-the-top fashions and decor of 1960s Hong Kong with a futuristic world where the hair, make-up and interior design differed only by degrees. The biggest change was the difference between Takuya Kimura as modest Japanese businessman and Takuya Kimura as a wild-haired sci-fi samurai. Nice!

Overall, the story was a meditation on memory as an inescapable destination, but the message was overshadowed by the exquisite drama of individual scenes. Cameras just LOVE these faces, and Wong did not let any attempt at mere esoteric storytelling get in their way. Almost a shame.

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