Classic Movie Review: 2046 (2004)

Posted: March 22, 2013 in Drama


Mo-Wan Chow (Tony Leung) is a writer with a very complicated love life.  He had an affair with a married woman, named Su-Li-Zhen (Maggie Cheung) that didn’t go well so he travelled to Singapore where he gambled and lost a lot of money, and met another woman named Su-Li- Zhen (Gong Li) This Su-Li helped Chow win back most of his money, but wouldn’t come back with him to Hong Kong.  Chow moves into a run-down hotel in Hong Kong and meets Lulu (Carina Lau) a nightclub singer, who’s doing her best to pretend she never knew Chow at all.  Two days later, Chow comes back, and wants to see Lulu, but the hotel manager Mr. Wang (Wang Sum) says Lulu is gone and her room 2046, needs to be redecorated, really Lulu has been stabbed to death by a jealous ex-boyfriend.

Chow moves into room 2047, and a new tenant moves into room 2046.  Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi) is a beautiful call-girl who immediately begins a physical relationship with Chow, but Bai Ling wants more, she has given up all her clients and becomes increasingly clingy towards Chow.  The clingier she gets the more distant he becomes.  Chow has already moved on in his mind, to another girl named Wang Jien Wen, (Faye Wong) who is in love with a Japanese man named Tak, who Mr Wang disapproves of because of his ethnicity. (Takuya Kimura)  Chow doesn’t care that Wang Jien has a boyfriend, he loves her.  He finds out that she likes to write and so she and Chow co-write a martial arts book. Just to complicate Chow’s life even further, Bai Ling comes back to Hong Kong and still wants a relationship with him.  What does Chow do?  Do things work out with Wang Jien?  Does she go to Japan to be with who she really loves?  What about Bai Ling?  Does she finally get to be with Chow, the man she loves?

I love this movie, it has familiar themes for those who know Wong Kar Wai’s work.  It is all about unrequited love, and just every other kind of love gone wrong.  It is brutally honest in its appraisal of relationships, sometimes men use women just for sex, just to forget a love they can’t have, but there is no substitute for the real thing.  Sometimes, women aren’t in love with men, and men get hurt by reading too much into their words and actions.  Sometimes a woman can hang on too hard to a man, and that drives them away.  Sometimes, a man can meet the perfect woman, or vice versa, and the timing of the relationship is wrong. It’s about karma, really, Chow treats Bai Ling badly, and gets too heavily invested in Wang Jien, leaving himself vulnerable to getting hurt.  Of course there’s also a political context to this, the year 2046 is when Hong Kong is transferred to China from England, maybe this whole movie is a prediction of how the handover will go.  There is no way in the world that a Hollywood writer would include such brutal honesty in a Hollywood movie, because every love story is sugar-coated with a happy ending, in a way that in no way reflects real life.  There are things that I didn’t like about the movie, the sci-fi part of the movie is a clunky metaphor, and I didn’t like that Bai Ling was a call girl, that is something this movie shares with Hollywood, a penchant for making women hookers. It’s a complicated movie, about a complicated subject, non-linear, told from a male perspective, with narration.  This could turn off some viewers, it didn’t turn me off.  It also might be a sequel for “In The Mood For Love” but it stands up very well on its own.  See it more than once, it deserves more than one viewing.

The chemistry just crackles with electricity between these actors. Tony Leung is a womanizer, or is he? He plays this role with such skill that the viewer actually feels badly for him.  Zhang Ziyi gives the performance of her life as the woman who risks everything emotionally for a man who could be using her.  Just when I thought Ziyi was great, along comes Faye Wong, who I love in Chunking Express, playing a woman, who while in pain, never gives up on her dream.  It’s a fantastic well-rounded performance. Gong Li makes the most of her small role as a mysterious woman.

The direction is also familiar if you’ve seen Wong Kar Wai films before, quick edits, fast motion, things seem to be a blur, the futuristic scenes make up in beauty what they lack in exposition.

2046.  You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.


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