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China/France/Germany/Hong Kong 2004
Directed by
Wong Kar-Wai
129 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars


Synopsis: Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), serial womaniser, ekes out an existence as a newspaper writer, haunted by the ghost of a love affair.

Wong Kar Wai's latest film extends the mix of ravishing visuals, retro style and romantic fatalism that was so irresistibly established with 2000's In The Mood For Love, taking us inside a complex narrative that explores love denied, lost and unrequited through its various characters, not to mention a segue into the central character's imaginary world, 2046, a sci-fi parallel to his own emotional condition. Visually, aurally and narratively dense, the film comes close to sensorially and conceptually overwhelming its audience. Four years in the making, it is an awe-inspiring, albeit exhausting, achievement.

A relative of sorts to In The Mood For Love, whose production overlapped this film and which was set in Hong Kong in the 1960s and concerned the relationship of a married journalist, Chow Mo-wan (Leung), and a married woman (Maggie Cheung) who lived in the same boarding house, and who wote matial arts novels in a remted room numbered 2046, the new film takes up Chow's life later in the decade (although there are references to Wong's earlier films, the character of Lulu, for example, first being seen in Days of Being Wild, 1991). Now in many ways a classical film noir protagonist, an unregenerate bachelor wasting his life with gambling, drinking and erotic dalliance, Wong both describes Chow's life with meticulous, near-fetishistic fidelity and passes it through the alembic of his principal character's imaginary universe, a combination encapsulated in the film's title which refers to a less-than-glamorous room in low-rent boarding house with its real life, messy goings-on and its sanitized hyper-real equivalent in Chow's novel (it also refers to the last year before the 50-year period the Chinese Government promised to let Hong Kong remain as it is).

Technically the film is stunning. The cinematography by long-time Wong collaborator, Christopher Doyle, together with Kwan Pun Leung and Yiu-Fai Lai, is complete visual seduction with its ceaseless inventiveness, whilst the editing, by another long-time collaborator, William Chang and the original music score and sound, costume and production design together weave a breathtaking cinematic feat.

The performances are outstanding, with a terminally-cool Tony Leung faultlessly evoking memories of the great screen idols of yesteryear and the female members of the cast, Zhang Ziyi, Carina Lau, Gong Li, Faye Wong and Maggie Cheung providing a roster of performers of the kind that Pedro Almodóvar would die for. At over 2 hours 2046 is demanding viewing that may have some viewers begging for release from its obsessive meditations but rarely has the pain of love been tasted so delectably.




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