2046 is Wong Kar Wai's sequel of sorts to his 2000 film, In The Mood For Love, which I haven't seen. After watching 2046, I'll make it a priority to do so. Wong is tremendously gifted in his ability to make his characters and dialogue seem natural, when in fact they really aren't. People rarely speak in metaphors, as they often do in his films, and nobody I've met in real life seems remotely as interesting as the characters in his films. Yet the stories seem almost commonplace, and unattentive viewers might label his films, especially this one, as boring. This is certainly not the case. Every Wong film I've seen has had a cathartic effect on me. 2046 was no different.
The story's protagonist is Chow Mo Wan (played by the great Tony Leung Chiu Wai), a newspaper writer who moves to Hong Kong from Singapore. There he meets an old girlfriend, and after she is murdered in her hotel room by a jealous boyfriend, Chow rents out the room next door and begins writing the titular novel, about a train that takes passengers to a mysterious place (country? city? building?) where they can relive lost memories. There are some scenes in the film that tell the story of Chow's novel, but not many, and the novel's plot's purpose is more allegorical than anything. Truthfully, the movie would have worked just as well without those scenes, but they don't really harm the film, either. I was quite surprised with the film, actually, as going in I was expecting the story to be about the fictional 2046, not that of its creator.
Throughout the film we are introduced to the various women of Chow's world, some whom he loves, some whom he doesn't; others who love him, others who don't. The bulk of the film, and its most interesting moments, center around Chow's relationship with Bai Ling (played be the uber-gorgeous Ziyi Zhang), a call girl whose plans to move to Singapore have been put on hold after her boyfriend dumps her. One thing I don't get: there's a famous actress named Bai Ling. Is this name common, or was it purposefully chosen to pay homage to the actress?
At first Chow pursue's Bai Ling, and she rejects his advances. From Chow's perspective, we see him as a likeable gentleman, and Bai Ling a harsh vixen. It is after they form a relationship, however, that we begin to see, from Bai Ling's perspective, that Chow is playing a courtier's role, and that he really has very little affection for her.
Why this is and how it came to be may be easily understood by those who have seen In The Mood For Love. As I've mentioned, I haven't, but by the end of the film some insight into Chow's motivations are evident. Chow appears to be a man who wants desperately to love someone, only to finally realize that he can't, and probably shouldn't. The ending is a disappointment for anyone hoping for Wong to recreate the happy ending from Chung King Express, but that's OK by me. I've always felt that Chung King's ending was a little bit of a cop-out. This ending seems a hell of a lot more real and believable.
2046 is a masterpiece, a deep meditation on love, companionship, and human longing.
Current "To Watch" List
Once Upon a Time in America
Gangs of New York
Full Metal Jacket