2046(Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 12.27.2005)
The long-awaited release of Wong Kar Wai's 2046 in 2005 was greeted by many American reviewers with enthusiasm and it was named best foreign film by the New York Film Critics. There have been, however, some notable dissenters because of the unusual complexity of the film's narrative. Wong's follow-up to In the Mood for Love finds Chow (Tony Leung) leaving Singapore for Hong Kong in 1966, three years after the events of the earlier film. He meets a woman from his past, Lulu (Carina Lau), first seen in Wong's Days of Being Wild, and takes hotel room 2047 after she is stabbed in 2046, the same room number where Chow and Su (Maggie Cheung) begin their affair in In the Mood for Love.
Room 2046 is next occupied by the young "dance hostess" Bai Ling (Ziyi Zhang), who falls in love with Chow despite his seeing her as nothing but yet another sexual partner. Chow helps Jing Wen (Faye Wong), the daughter of the hotel's anti-Japanese owner (Wang Sum), carry on a secret correspondence with her Japanese boyfriend (Takuya Kimura). A pulp novelist, Chow uses their relationship as the basis of a science fiction novel entitled 2046, not recognizing that his theme has parallels in Bai's feelings for him. Another plotline follows Chow's involvement with another Su (Gong Li), a mysterious gambler.
2046 is full of thematic and stylistic echoes of Wong's earlier films, especially In the Mood for Love, whose heroine is glimpsed briefly in a flashback. The way Wong weaves the strands of his plots together has a hypnotic effect, underscoring themes related to memory, desire, and loss. Bai's line at the end summarizes the film: "Why can't it be like it was before?" But 2046 is not for all tastes. A friend from Hong Kong told me she could make no sense of it all and New Yorker critic Anthony Lane called the film "a near-death experience."
For me, 2046 is an aural and visual feast. The soundtrack is an exotic mix of pop songs by Nat King Cole, Connie Francis, and Dean Martin, an Xavier Cugat rumba, an aria from Bellini's "Norma," a bit of Georges Delerue's score for Truffaut's Confidentially Yours, Peer Raben's music from Fassbinder's Querelle, and a piece from Zbigniew Preisner's score for Krzystof Kieslowski's A Short Film about Killing. The constantly repeated main theme by Shigeru Umebayashi has the same haunting effect as Nino Rota's theme for The Godfather.
Because Wong made the film on and off for more than four years, his unusual cinematographer, the great Christopher Doyle, was available to shoot only parts of the film, but the film's images are consistently striking, especially the repeated shots of the sky from the top of the hotel, with the colors reflecting the moods of the characters. Then there are the performances. Those unfortunates who have seen Zhang and Li only in Memoirs of a Gheisa should see them here in a more natural element.
The extras include two sets of interviews with Wong, Leung, and Zhang. The director says 2046 is not a sequel to but an echo of the earlier film. He and Leung talk about how Chow changes from a gentle, sensitive man to mean and selfish. Leung compares the character to a Charles Bukowski anti-hero. Zhang complains that Wong required too many takes.
There are two deleted scenes, one of which should have been included, and an alternative ending, a different, inferior lingering shot of Chow. Other extras include a look at the CGI for the science fiction scenes and two considerations of the music. Despite all this being crammed onto one disc, the transfer is still deeply textured and the sound excellent. -- Michael Adams