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.
chapati. i love the word. and beside the word, mystery...how wonderful is *that*? i once did a 23 day walk carrying water, chapatis and a can of peanut butter. the chapatis were made fresh each day, some from tea stalls, some by my own hand in the houses of people i met. never has a chapati been such a delicacy. *grins. yum. the blog i mean, not the roti.
WKW has lamented on the loss of romance in Hong Kong in numerous movies. If In the Mood for Love was about the inescapability of romance in the confines of space, 2046 is about the inevitability of transient and jaded relationships in the coercion of time. (Note that the Chinese title of In the Mood for Love is ????, which means a woman is most beautiful when in love. Of course, WKW was trying to say that Hong Kong was most beautiful in the 60s with its romance and love and thus the style of the movie. In contrast, 2046 is all about what happens when that thing gets ugly.) For WKW, Hong Kong and romance have been the main theme of his career. In Happy Together, WKW tries to show the mixed desire of the Cantonese who try to leave Hong Kong before its return to China while remaining completely nostalgic about their lives there. Perhaps it is the same theme in a more abstract form that he tries to imbue into 2046. Cho Mo Wan tries to stay in 2046, but ends in room 2047. Room 2046 is something he peeks through a hole, constantly longing for the past. He longs for Su Li Zhen and tries to forget the lost love in the arms of passing women. Everything heartless he does pushes the memory of Su Li Zhen into oblivion, much like Cantonese who did everything they could to escape Hong Kong before its return to China. Yet, he cannot escape the memory much like the Cantonese living in their romanticized memory of Hong Kong. I think it is this disjunction of what one desires and what one becomes when that desire is lost that WKW is vaguely trying to delineate in 2046. Hong Kong is a place that many Cantonese people romanticize with their past lives while fearing what would become of them when it returns to China. It is no coincidence that the year 2046 is the 50th anniversary of Hong Kongâˆšâ‰ s return to China. Perhaps I am reading too much from the movie. Or perhaps some of WKWâˆšâ‰ s life found their way into the story. WKW has lost his home twice in his life. He left China when he was 5 and lost Hong Kong to China in 1997. I think it is safe to say that there is an inherent sense of dislocation in his movies. And I think the sense of dislocation and nostalgia is always hidden in many of WKWâˆšâ‰ s movies. Cho Mo Wan confesses in 2046 that some of his life found their way into the novel he was writing (I think this is quite suggestive. WKW noted that the hotel room in Chung King Express was actually the room he used to live in during the 80s when he was an aspiring scenario writer. HmmmmmâˆšÃ± perhaps he was a womanizer during that periodâˆšÃ± Wait, he did say he was quite a âˆšÂ¨playerâˆšÃ† in this youth. And we all know how narcissistic WKW can be..). The train in 2046 is, I dare think, the manifestation of this mix of dislocation and nostalgia. It is always on the move (dislocation) and you are there to relive the past. In fact, the train never stops at any station in the movie. Perhaps, it is just a bad sequel with a series of incoherent themes about how people get fucked up when the timing of the love of their lives is off. But I do think there is a thread of hope. Tak (the handsome Japanese guy) in the train is the projection of Cho Mo Wan while the same guy who is in love with Wang Jing Wen (the first daughter of the hotel owner) is a real character (What?). And he is the first to return from train 2046. So, if WKW is projecting some of his images vaguely through Cho Mo Wan who is also talking through Tak in the train, there is a chance that WKW is suggesting an end to this theme of dislocation and nostalgia. By the way, in some of the train scenes, it is difficult to tell if it is Tak or Cho Mo Wan who is doing the narrative. And I think this is intentional. I think this âˆšÂ´imaginationâˆšâ‰ of hope is quite relevant because WKW has said on numerous occasions that 2046 ends his narrative about Hong Kong and nostalgia. Now, that makes me supremely curious about Eros and The Lady from Shanghai. I just hope that he wonâˆšâ‰ t walk the rotten path of Zhang Yimou (just watch Hero and House of Flying Daggers for this point).
Nicely elaborated, DMan. You are right that the location of HK in WKW's work is quite significant - and I hadn't made the 2046 connection. I am reminded of the opening of Chungking Express - where the hustle of HK and the Pakistani immigrants is captured so brilliantly - and the date of expiration on the canned pineapples - May 1.
NOT! Editorial change - I am SEPOY here. duh! My thinly veiled identity must be protected, if only to keep the groupies enchanted.