Friday, January 14, 2011


Originally Written and Posted at on 5/25/06 w/ Additional Edits.

2000's In the Mood for Love by Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai brought him his biggest success internationally. Notably for its visual flair and unconventional approach to storytelling. Even his style of directing on set and last-minute additions before the film was released gave him a reputation that is considered legendary. After doing some work including commercials and a short film segment for the omnibus film series Eros with Steven Soderbergh and Michelangelo Antonioni, Kar-Wai returned to work on an unlikely venture. A sequel of sorts to In the Mood for Love taking Tony Leung Chui-Wai's character of Mr. Chow into a series of surreal affairs in the future in a room number for the film's title called 2046.

Written and directed by Wong Kar-Wai, 2046 is a film about Mr. Chow's post life after his affair with Su Li-Zhen where embarks on a series of strange affairs while telling erotic stories set in the year 2046 in a time when people are trying to recapture lost memories on a train. More ambitious in its visual style and storylines than its predecessor, 2046 reveals more of Kar-Wai's unconventional approach to storytelling. With a cast that includes such regulars as Tony Leung Chui-Wai, Faye Wong, and Maggie Cheung plus Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li, Takuya Kimura, and Lam Siu-Ping. 2046 is another of Wong Kar-Wai's enduring films that stimulates not in its visual beauty but its heartbreaking take on love.

The year 2046 in Hong Kong is very different as the trains of 2046 are for people trying to recapture the lost memories through its varied rooms and androids. On the train is a Japanese man named Tak (Takaya Kimura) is trying to persuade an android (Faye Wong) to revisit a lost memory. That trip to revisit a time is a part of fiction as Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung Chui-Wai) is reeling from the break-up with his lost love Su Li Zhen (Maggie Cheung) during a trip in Singapore. He along with his friend Ah Ping (Lam Sui-Ping), they return to Hong Kong in 1967, amidst its chaotic period in politics. Returning to give up his reporter job to become a consultant, Chow has become a womanizer of sorts as he comes across a woman named Lulu (Carina Lau). After a night with her, he walks out of her room where he recognizes the number 2046, a old hotel room number he stayed in from his lost affair. Turning to his hotel landlord Mr. Wang (Wang Sum), he moves into the room next door known as 2047 while room 2046 is being redecorated.

The series of affairs and one-night stands inspired Chow to write a series of erotic stories for the paper about a futuristic time in Hong Kong in the year 2046 where people go on trains with androids to reclaim lost memories. Just as the room was finished, a hooker named Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi) moves in as he's become infatuated with her beauty. It's Christmas 1967 as the two would have dinner that eventually began as a secret affair. While Chow enjoys her company, he doesn't adore and only uses her for his stories as their relationship begins to heat up. Then when Bai Ling realizes the kind of man that Chow really is, their relationship falters. Chow would only see her in passing as he continues his un-fulfilling yet inspiring lifestyle.

Often infatuated with Mr. Wang's daughter Wang Jingwen (Faye Wong), he sees her again who still has trouble trying to contact her Japanese boyfriend (Takaya Kimura) through letters as her father still has bad blood with the Japanese over World War II. Chow becomes an unlikely correspondence through the letters as he begins a relationship with Wang Jingwen who helps him write his work after being impressed with her own writing. During a Christmas dinner, she feels hopeless that she'll never speak to her boyfriend as Chow gives a chance to call him where he decides to use them into another story. Suddenly, the tone of the story changes as he tells the story of Tak who falls for an android with a delayed response where he tells a secret through a hole.

The haunting elements of his stories forces Chow to give up his womanizing lifestyle as by 1970, he becomes reacquainted with Bai Ling, who is set to depart to Singapore. Chow tells about his time in Singapore including what happened last Christmas where he met a mysterious woman named Black Spider (Gong Li) who nearly resembles and carries the name of his lost love. For Chow, he has to recall his own memories as his own world of fiction and reality becomes blurry where he's trying to figure himself even more and the people around him.

While 2046 is not as simple as its predecessor, In the Mood for Love. The film does have a more complex approach in telling the story of Mr. Chow. Particularly in his development from this sensitive, quiet man in the preceding film, In the Mood for Love to a gloomier, meaner individual in 2046. In many ways, the film is about a man whose emotions towards rejection makes him colder yet the pain is drawn out in fiction as he becomes more withdrawn in all of these relationships he had with other women. It's in Wong Kar-Wai's story that really reveals the melancholia of love and all of its heartbreak, whether its in the 1960s or in the futuristic setting of 2046. The film just doesn't take those romantic from his previous film but also bringing a character from another Kar-Wai film, Days of Being Wild.

It's not just in Kar-Wai's script, or lack thereof since he never works with a script, that reveals a far more complex plot that blurs the idea of reality and fiction. It's in his direction where he's a master of atmosphere and tone. Using wandering images plus a very surreal look of 2046 Hong Kong where the trains are used for time travel, Kar-Wai goes very deep into the concept of loss and isolation. Fortunately in his script, he manages to take a structure where the audience isn't loss on what's going on or where they are. It's in Kar-Wai's direction that the audience is transported into a world of melancholia and emptiness where it's in Mr. Chow's journey of self-discovery. Even in Kar-Wai's presentation of mood and colors, he takes the audience to a world where things are moving a bit slower as opposed to the fast-paced world of the future while everything is lost. Kar-Wai's concept of the future is very bleak despite its look while the train and androids represent everything that people hold dearly. There, the ending of his previous film is clearly more understood while the ending in this film, shows a development of Mr. Chow and his trying to understand the way love and fate works.

Helping Kar-Wai in his unique, colorful presentation are two of his most enduring collaborators, Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle and jacks-of-all-trade William Chang Suk Ping. In the photography, Doyle along with Lai Yiu Fai and Kwan Pun Leung create an enormous array of colors and settings of many of the film's interiors of the 1960s sequences where it's similar to the look of In the Mood for Love but only with a decaying feel. The cinematography in those sequences reveal the changing times while showing the atmosphere and withdrawn feel of the characters. In the 2046 section, it's more colorful with its shade of red and white lights to convey the sense of emotions and the lack of emotions in its androids. Truly its some of the best cinematography ever done.

Production designer/costume designer/editor William Chang Suk Ping helps creating the distinctive visuals of the film. With art director Alfred Yau Wai Ming, the film's 1960 look of colors and props reveal the changing times of late 1960s Hong Kong and the dingy look of late 1960s Singapore. It's in the atmosphere of the 1960s look where it represents the gloomy mood of Mr. Chow while the look of 2046 is very different and very polished. Even the costumes of the 1960s from the tight clothing of Bai Ling to the more conservative look of Wang Jingwen reveal the contrasts of their personalities while the costumes of the future are done with an array of things including paper mache. The film's look in its design and costume are done with immense brilliance while Chang's best work is clearly in the editing. Using a shimmering pacing style for some of the film's sequences, it doesn't move too slow or too fast but conveys the ever-decaying mood of Mr. Chow. It's wonderfully cut to convey the perspective of characters while holding together its unique yet complex structure. Overall, William Chang Suk Ping's work in any medium should be commended.

The visual effects team of BUF from France does a great job for creating a surreal yet gargantuan look of Hong Kong in the future. The film's look in its visual effects complement the style of Kar Wai and his collaborators where it presents a surreal yet beautiful look of the future filled with large buildings with neon colors and a green-brown background with everything looking what the future should look like. For the sound work, Kar-Wai regular Tu Duu Chih and French sound designer Claude Letessier do amazing work in bringing the right kind of feel and tone for its atmosphere from the quietness in the hotel rooms of the 1960s sequences to the metallic yet ominous feel of the 2046 scenes.

The film's music which is composed by Peer Raben and Shigeru Umebayashi is more sweeping and epic than In the Mood for Love which had a more waltz-like tempo in its score. For this film, the music conveys the sense of gloom and loss where its arrangements are more lyrical as it builds up the momentum of the film. The music also features not just cuts from Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner, famed for his work with the late Krzysztof Kieslowski, but also Georges Delerue, and pop cuts from Secret Garden, Angela Gheorghiu, Xavier Cugat, Connie Francis, and Nat King Cole singing a Christmas classic.

Finally, there's the film's cast which includes several notable small performances from Dong Jie as Wang Jingwen’s little sister and as an android plus Carina Lau reprising her role as Mimi/Lulu from Days of Being Wild and as an android along with Kar-Wai regular Chang Chen as her lover in both the 1960s and futuristic sequences. Maggie Cheung is also great in her brief appearance as the Su Li Zhen in the early 1966 sequence while Lam Sui-Ping is wonderfully funny as Ah Ping who reminds everyone of his humorous presence. Wang Sum is also excellent in his role as the Japanese-hating Mr. Wang while Gong Li commands a great presence and atmosphere in her performance as Black Spider who carries a secret past that becomes one of the film's most devastating moments. Japanese actor Takuya Kimura is wonderful in his role as Tak, a fictional character who represents all the remorse and sadness of Mr. Chow as he brings a mostly, minimalist performance to many of his scenes where it's truly a marvel of a performance.

Zhang Ziyi is great in her role as the young, emotional hooker Bai Ling who commands a great presence and authority to her role in many of the film's sequences as her character develops into a young woman who longs for the love of Mr. Chow. It's truly one of Ziyi's great performances. Faye Wong delivers the best of the female performances as Wang Jingwen who captures the heart of Mr. Chow through her sadness to connect with her own lost love. Though, the two never got into a more intimate relationship, Wong manages to capture the sense of hopefulness and will for Mr. Chow to re-think his own lifestyle while Wong also brings a wonderfully haunting yet emotional quality to her role as the android who is devoid of emotions.

Then we have Tony Leung Chui-Wai in the role of Mr. Chow. Taking his character to more darker yet withdrawn areas, Leung manages to create a different version of Mr. Chow that was opposed to the sensitive yet quiet man from In the Mood for Love. In 2046, he displays a lot of charm in front of everyone but inside, he's gloomier and meaner. Still, Leung manages to make Mr. Chow a man who is flawed and with a lot of internal conflict of someone who gives up on long love yet cannot yearn for it. Looking more like a modern-day, Asian Clark Gable, Leung brings new dimensions to his famed character as it stands out as another of his great performances.

The Region 1 DVD from Sony Pictures Classic is a truly marvelous DVD with loads of special features and a presentation that works for Kar-Wai's visually haunting film. The first film of Kar-Wai to be shot on a widescreen format of 2:40:1 anamorphic ratio. The look of the film is wonderful while it's done in 5.1 Dolby Digital sound in Cantonese with English and Spanish subtitles. Overall, the film looks and sounds great in its DVD presentation while it also features an array of great little extras. First is a 37-minute Behind the Scenes special featuring interviews with Kar-Wai and the cast where they talk about the film, Kar-Wai's style and the collaborators, notably William Chang Suk Pin about the look and feel of the costumes. The special is informative about Kar-Wai's working habits as they go behind the scenes on everything.

Two deleted scenes are presented except a much-talked about martial arts sequence that possibly never made the final cut or was never filmed. The first is a scene involving Black Spider trying to find Mr. Chow in his room as she ends up staying in the room 2046. The second deleted scene involves another strange meeting with Mr. Chow with meeting of Wang Jingwen's android character from their own collaboration which is one of the more emotional scenes. An alternate ending is also shown which shows Mr. Chow sitting in a bar, though it blurs things even more about the film's ending. The 16-minute interview featurette from a French TV program features interviews with Wong Kar-Wai and Tony Leung as they spoke in English where they talked about the film's concept and their own relationship into working. Zhang Ziyi speaks in Cantonese as she talks about her insecurities into working with Kar-Wai only to be helped by Leung where she found her niche into working with Kar-Wai. The interview also reveals Kar-Wai's non-script approach and how the actors got the freedom to interpret their own characters where for Ziyi, it was challenging yet fun.

The five-minute little featurette called Anatomy of Memories is about the making-of the visual effects of 2046 Hong Kong and the process it took from late 2003 through 2004 where a line-test was revealed in the film's premiere at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. The film revealed in Kar-Wai's presentation and how he wanted Hong Kong to be bigger with large skyscrapers, smog, and have a neon, techno-like color with the help of his collaborator William Chang Suk Pin. The seven-minute Music Montage special is a collection of scenes played through a few pieces of the film's music, notably its opera track to convey the emotions that Kar-Wai wanted for the film. The featurette on the film's music is a collection of liner notes with the film being played to the clip of the music where that scene is in as Kar-Wai often borrows some of its music from the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Two more little specials arrive where the first is in a numerology section about the card numbers, the money that Mr. Chow is paid, and the significance of the number 2046 where it's the year Hong Kong will be under a full rule of China. The second is a gallery of the film's posters from all of the countries to revealed the varied countries and looks of the posters for that country. The previews section from Sony Classics features trailers for such films as Thumbsucker, Junebug, Layer Cake, Heights, and Ingmar Bergman's Saraband. Overall, Sony Classics created a wonderful DVD that complements all the energy and creativity of Wong Kar-Wai.

When production began in 2001 for 2046, Kar-Wai's notoriety to shooting in long periods of time with lots of improvisation and last-minute changes made it a long shoot. There was a running joke on the set that the film would be released in the year 2046. Still, despite a two-year shoot which was nearly halted by the SARs epidemic, Kar-Wai still manage to finish production. During production, he embarked on a few other projects on the side that included his short for The Hand in the 2004 omnibus feature Eros with Michelangelo Antonioni and Steven Soderbergh; the BMW commercial short called The Follow with Clive Owen, Forrest Whitaker, Mickey Rourke, and model Adriana Lima; and a music video for the song Six Days for DJ Shadow.

By late 2003, Kar-Wai and the BUF visual effects team along with William Chang Suk Pin spent months trying to work on the editing and visual effects for the film. Though it was submitted and set for a world premiere, at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. The film remained unfinished as on the date it was set to premiere and in competition for the Palme D'or, the film print arrived out of its laboratory three hours late as the date for the film had to be rescheduled. The unfinished film got mixed reviews though it wasn't the first time an unfinished film caused a lot of attention as Francis Ford Coppola released an unfinished of his 1979 masterpiece Apocalypse Now at the Cannes Film Festival and co-won the Palme D'or. Still, Kar-Wai manage to get the film done eventually in 2004 while his longtime cinematographer Christopher Doyle announced that 2046 would be the last time he would work with Kar-Wai. Despite Kar-Wai's notoriety in his work ethic, the film proved to be another success for its Hong Kong director.

Though not as potent or as simplistic as In the Mood for Love. 2046 is still an engrossing, hypnotic, and heartbreaking film from Wong Kar-Wai thanks to a dedicated film team and performances from Tony Leung Chui-Wai, Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li, Faye Wong, and Takuya Kimura. Though its suggested to watch In the Mood for Love for some back story, 2046 does manage to be its own film where it gives a great summary to not just the work of Kar-Wai but his unique take on love, memory, and the future. For a film that stimulates you on the visual sense and goes right into your heart, Wong Kar-Wai's 2046 is the film to see.

© thevoid99 2011

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