We all have disappointments. Some cope with them better than others.
Enter Chow (Tony Leung) as he moves into room 2046 in a hotel in director Wong Kar-Wai’s follow-up to his earlier In the Mood for Love. While living there, he begins writing a science fiction erotic story set in the year 2046 and encounters a beautiful prostitute (Zhang Ziyi), a woman in a forbidden love (Faye Wong), and a professional gambler (Li Gong).
As I said before in my review of In the Mood for Love, 2046 is part of an informal trilogy that Wong filmed with the first film being Days of Being Wild (1990) and the second part being In the Mood for Love (2000). In the Mood for Love was totally watchable for someone who hasn’t seen Days of Being Wild. 2046 can also be watched without seeing the other two films, but I would highly recommend seeing In the Mood for Love before seeing 2046 as it features Chow as a returning protagonist.
2046 follows Chow as he deals with his own frustration of having been unable to consummate his relationship with Su Li Zhen (Maggie Cheung). He still writes stories for a newspaper, but begins engaging in self-destructive behavior. He sleeps with a different woman almost every night. He gambles his assets away. He becomes afraid of letting anyone get close to him.
As with Wong did with his other movies, he didn’t really constrain his characters to a plot. Rather, he let the movie be completely character-driven. While it seems like Chow had hit rock bottom, we see him gradually grow as a character, and thankfully ultimately ends up a better man than he was at the beginning. Zhang, Wong, and Li are the reflections of Chow in his various stages over the course of the movie, and Chow in turn reflects on what he encounters in his writing of his new story. As the movie progresses, Chow’s choices in his prose begin to make more sense. Why is the lead character Japanese? Why is he trying to get away from 2046?
Once again, Wong proves himself to be a master in creating visuals. When we first meet Faye Wong’s character, we see her feet pacing up and down as she practices speaking Japanese. We see Chow and Black Snake slowly walking away from each other, but in step. Zhang, Wong, and Li are all without a doubt very beautiful women, but 2046 made them all the more appealing in how director Wong carefully constructed his mise-en-scene. Wong Kar Wai got to be even more creative when visually depicting Chow’s science fiction story. Our Japanese hero meets androids whose feet light up while riding a seemingly endless space train. The computer graphics were clearly not meant to look life-like at all, adding to the overall surreal feel of the movie.
It is fair to say, however, that 2046 is not an easy watch. Without the right mindset, it is quite easy to accidentally miss an important detail of the movie, which will in turn totally derail the story in your mind. For that reason, I highly advise against watching this movie somewhere where you can be easily distracted.
Once again, I will say a Wong Kar Wai movie proves to be an utter treat for the senses. The movie’s plot is a little challenging, but it is definitely worth going through in order to appreciate the loving care Wong put into 2046, which demonstrated itself to be yet another fine example of Asian film.