Remembrance of Things Past

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Review of '2046', director Wong Kar Wai

A stylish and nostalgic piece, 2046 follows the aesthetics and themes of In the Mood for Love. We find Chow Mo Wan (played by Tony Leung) a few years after his platonic affair with Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung). At the end of In the Mood for Love Chow was sad and heartbroken. Now he is writing pulp fiction and lives the life of a playboy in the 1960s with no commitments and many one-night stands.

The film opens with a futuristic train station where a train takes its passengers - looking for lost memories - to 2046, a time/space in which nothing changes, memories are intact and will remain so forever. It is the novel that Chow has started to write. But whereas people in 2046 don't come back, he does - and so do the regrets of his lost love.

The film evolves between past and present, fiction and reality, where memories clash with regrets. Chow's relationships are intense but meaningless. We see him with his next door neighbour who eventually falls for him to her loss. Other women cross his path: his lodger's daughter, in love with someone else; a card player who's always wearing black, forever harmed by an unknown story. But Chow is haunted by the only relationship that never was, by the unbearable presence/absence of Su Li-zhen. So he writes and escapes in his novel, 2046, where the women he meets are transformed into androids.

Life goes on in clubs and restaurants, restaurants and clubs, Christmas after Christmas, a bad dream where Chow still smiles, always, lost between the fiction of 2046 and the reality of the 1960s in Singapore.

Wong Kar Wai is a brilliant director. His slow-moving shots are almost magical with the film soundtrack accentuating them. The photography is one of the main strengths of the film. As in In the Mood for Love, we find again those greens and saturated reds and oranges. Watching the screen filled with rain or the characters walking up the stairs becomes remarkable cinema.

But most impressive are the subjects that Wong Kar Wai explores - time (the film title is actually a reference to the fiftieth anniversary of the retrocession of Hong Kong to China with a Sino-British agreement stating that Hong Kong would remain 'unchanged for 50 years'!), solitude, love, desire, the bitter taste of regrets and missed opportunities.

2046 is not as good as In the Mood for Love, maybe because of the complexities of the themes and the way the director jumps back and forth in time, which can make it a bit confusing. Nevertheless it is still a good example of Wong Kar Wai's talent and his capacity to produce some very creative films.