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2046
cast: Tony Leung, Gong Li, Faye Wong, Zhang Zi-yi, and Carina Lau Kar-ling

director: Wong Kar-wai

123 minutes (12) 2004
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Tartan DVD Region 0 rental / retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Andrew Hook
"He was a writer. He thought he wrote about the future but it really was the past. In his novel, a mysterious train left for 2046 every once in a while. Everyone who went there had the same intention... to recapture their lost memories. It was said that in 2046, nothing ever changed. Nobody knew for sure if it was true, because nobody who went there had ever come back - except for one. He was there. He chose to leave. He wanted to change."

This is not a film about a future society but a movie about the impossibility of disproving that the past influences the present - that we cannot escape the inevitable facets of memory. Initially set in Hong Kong in 1966, Chow Mo-Wan (Tony Leung) travels to Singapore after his lover arbitrarily decides not to go with him by picking a higher card from a pack. There he slides into gambling and facing immense debt he finds his memories and finances are won back by Gong Li, who in turn also casually rejects him. By coincidence, both women are named Su Li-Zhen; both are women that he cannot control. When he returns to Hong Kong he meets Lu Lu (Carina Lau Kar-ling), a woman from his past who denies any memory of him at all. She lives in room 2046 in an apartment block, and shortly afterwards Leung moves into 2047. It is there he becomes a freelance writer and philanderer, and begins writing a novel: '2046'.

This is only the beginning of this intricate, self-absorbing, beautifully shot, and tantalisingly intense movie. As Leung becomes an increasingly self-obsessed socialite, picking and discarding women as though turning over cards in the hope of finding a perfect match, his previous rejections stockpile a fear of rejection, causing him to undermine any chance of future happiness. In the 2046 of his novel his central character, Kak (Kimura Takuya) falls in love with an android (Faye Wong) on the train, who responds to his every whim except for agreeing to go with him. When asked the question, she doesn't respond. This mirrors not only the increasing lack of response to the women Leung associates with in the movie, but also the landlord's daughter's (also Faye Wong) forbidden relationship with her Japanese suitor (also Kimura Takuya).

2046 is an extraordinarily rich and difficult movie to summarise. Layered metaphors infuse this movie, and it won't be to everyone's taste. As Leung enters each new relationship (his position is reviewed every Christmas Eve), his intentions and emotions are laid bare yet are also unbearably raw. When he ultimately rejects the high-class prostitute, Bai Ling (Zhang Zi-yi) - after one of the most intense and provocative relationships in the movie - she is devastated at the realisation of her love for him. It seems that he does in the way that he was done by. The cyclical nature of pain, heartbreak, anger - all are heightened by the knowledge of memory. The memory of what happened as well as the memory of what might have been.

Yet, this is just scratching the surface. Rather like Godard's Eloge De L'Amour, another movie that is a poetic examination of the nature of love, 2046 requires repeated viewings to ensure that what we see is what we get. Leung is perfectly balanced in a role that is totally absorbing, if not always likeable. Zhang Zi-yi is stunning as Bai Ling, brilliantly displaying incredible depths of emotion. And the supporting cast are equally commendable.

Touted as a sequel to In The Mood For Love, which I haven't seen, this movie apparently shifts its precursor sideways, with Leung's character damaged as a result of the earlier movie and - changing tracks as might a train - mutating before finally derailing. The intensity of the ride is sometimes too complex, too clever, and too long. Wong Kar-wai himself spent five years filming and constantly editing it. And if ultimately this is a movie that screams to be analysed by university film students, it is no worse because of that. Whilst 2046 isn't completely understood, it does come highly recommended.

The DVD extras include various interviews and behind the scenes footage.
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