2046 essentially takes place over the course of two and a half years in the late 60s. It does travel back in time to the early 60s and the events after In the Mood for Love. And there is the future stuff. But, we will come to that later.
While ITMFL centered on Maggie Cheung, 2046 is about Tonny Leung. While ITMFL was a microscopic examination of the moment when the lives of two people intersect, 2046 is akin to a cosmic view of the many women that Tony beds. While ITMFL was almost an ascetic koan, 2046 is a baudy ballad.
That right there is the movie. Love and Time. Tony loved Maggie but she didn’t love him back. Zhang Ziyi loves Tony but he doesn’t love her back. Tony loves someone who reminds him of Maggie but she knows that Tony loves someone whom she resembles (even has the same name). Tony loves someone who loves someone else. Love, it seems, is the avenging angel of fate bent on ripping your heart to shreds for no apparent reason. Time cycles back on itself so you stay in a loop of heartache, living and reliving your pasts – in your futures. DEEEEEPRESSING.
And a bit lazy on the part of WKW. The editing is sloppy and lots of characters muddle in and out of the script aimlessly. The cinematography is as brilliant as I hoped. The print we watched had no real color but the shot composition was classic WKW with some particular ones of breathtaking sadness.
The majority view after the movie ended was that this was not the sequel we were waiting for – actually, most didn’t like the movie at all. I reserve my judgement until I see the theatrical version. WKW supposedly has made immense changes in the editing room. I really wanted to adore this movie but I am only in the “hmmm” mode. The strength of WKW has always been in uniting varied threads in his different movies. 2046, the self-declared sequel, seems curiously disjointed from anything before. Whether it is the fractured narrative, the despondent heartlessness of Tony Leung or the portions set in the future, I don’t know. I did not get into the movie until the second half – though that is indeed quite powerful. And another wrinkle, as DMan pointed out, is that the Tony portrayed in the first half – doesn’t ring true. He is hyper-sexual and aggresive. Neither qualities were evident in ITMFL. So what gives WKW? Because, again, in the second half we are back to the Tony we had – a sad silent martyr to love. Is it rebound portrayed rather naively? And why so much emphasis on his sexual conquests? hmmm…Is this some autobiographical detail from WKW? I really don’t know.
One last thing. Zhang Ziyi is a revelation. I had no clue she could act. I was tired of her petulant warrior schtick almost from CTHD. But, she steals this movie from everyone else. Amazing. Oh, about that future stuff, it adds nothing to the movie, WKW should just take it out.