February 21, 2006
Several years in the making (and three cinematographers later), Wong Kar-Wai’s 2046 (2004) is a sequel of sorts to his sumptuous period piece of unrequited love, In the Mood for Love (2000). Or rather, it should be viewed as a continuation of that world, the second part of the same work, much in the same way as Chungking Express (1994) and Fallen Angels (1995) are two parts of the same work. In 2046, Wong pushes the narrative envelope farther than he ever has before and this results in a gorgeous looking movie that is, at times, hard to follow.
Chow (Leung) remembers a woman (Cheung) he befriended in the early ‘60s when they found out that their spouses were having an affair together. He begins to write an erotic story set in the year 2046 about a mysterious woman who lives in a hotel room with the same number. Chow himself moves into room 2047 and has an affair with a beautiful prostitute (Zhang) who rents the room in his story.
During the course of his stay in the hotel, Chow observes two different occupants in room 2046. The first is a young wife (Wong) of a Japanese businessman and after she leaves, the prostitute. Both women find their way into his futuristic short story.
Chow was a more tragic figure in In the Mood while in 2046 he has become more cynical and uncaring. It’s as if the dissolution of his marriage has destroyed any decency that he might have had.
As with most of Wong’s movies, the plot is secondary to the richly textured atmosphere that envelopes every scene. As with In the Mood, the attention to period costumes and hair styles is fantastic, evoking another time and place which is rather fitting considering that one of the prevailing themes of the movie is the fleeting nature of memory.
2046 is a beautifully shot movie. In one scene, Miss Wang (Wong) is framed in a shot next to the hotel’s neon sign, she in silhouette. There is another shot of her standing in her room, smoking a cigarette in slow motion. There are dreamy shots of skies filled with moving clouds. Some of the futuristic scenes take on a carefully composed, Kubrickesque vibe akin to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Wong continues to be a master at composing a frame, knowing where to position his actors within it.
It is a very sensual movie but in a different way than In the Mood which conveyed sexuality through the clothes and how they were worn. 2046 is not as romantic. Chow has an affair with several women, in particular the prostitute that is very physical in nature, as if he is making up for lost time, losing himself in pleasures of the flesh. He has become a user and once he’s finished with someone he discards them in a cold and uncaring manner, hurting them emotionally.
2046 is a tough movie to follow if you’re used to a traditionally structured narrative. At times, it is difficult to follow what is happening – uncharacteristic for Wong. It is a great looking movie so, perhaps he is going for more of a mood piece as opposed to a coherent narrative. Wong fares better with his scenes between two characters but connecting all the dots between Chow and the other people in his life proves to be hard to track. You have to be willing to succumb to the film’s atmosphere and style and not worry so much about the plot. This is definitely a movie that needs to be seen more than once in order to discover the layers and figure out the connections between characters. It is almost as if 2046 is a state of mind more than anything else, which may be the key to unlocking its secrets.
Confused? “Behind the Scenes of 2046” attempts to decipher some of the mysteries of Wong’s movie. The director doesn’t think of this movie as a sequel but rather an echo of In the Mood for Love. Wong and his leading man, Tony Leung do a pretty good job explaining what they think this film is about and how Chow’s character has changed. There is some good on-the-set footage of Wong working with his actors.
Also included are two deleted scenes and an alternate ending. In one scene Chow meets one of his characters from his story, a female android (Wong). There’s not much to the alternate ending except that it suggests that Chow has become one with his story.
“Crossed Looks: Interviews with Wong Kar-Wai, Tony Leung and Ziyi Zhang” is a continuation of the “Behind the Scenes” featurette. For Zhang, it was the first time she had worked with Wong and without a script. She was very nervous initially but Leung has worked with him many times and helped her adjust but none of them knew what the film was about. The actors speak eloquently about working Wong and his approach to filmmaking.
“Anatomy of Memories” takes a look at the use of CGI to create the futuristic cityscape of Chow’s story and briefly examines how it was put together.
“Music Montage” is a seven minute music video that puts together some of the stunning footage from the movie with the lush orchestral score.
“The Music of 2046” allows you to hear select musical cues from the film’s score as they appear in the movie with text explaining their purpose and origin.
“Numerology of 2046” touches upon the use of numbers in the movie and what they represent.
“International Exploration Poster Gallery” features a decent collection of various 2046 movie posters from all over the world.