I hate to start ever review of a Wong Kar-Wai movie with something like, “Oh my god, this movie is amazing…” but it’s hard not to.
I watched his most recent (not counting the short “The Hand” from Eros) film, 2046 (Japanese promotional site, American promotional site), which could be described as a “loose” sequel to both In the Mood for Love and Days of Being Wild. I would probably say that it’s 90% sequel to In the Mood and 10% sequel to Days — Lulu/Mimi from Days of Being Wild shows up, and her lover York is refered to as the Chinese Filipino she was in love with, but that’s all. As for 2046‘s connection to In the Mood, Tony Leung reprises his role as Chow and his love interest from In the Mood, Su Lizhen, returns via flashbacks (I think directly from In the Mood, actually) as well as through a new character sharing her name.
I won’t really try to explain the plot, for two reasons: one, it would be a disservice to anyone who wants to go ahead and watch the movie since I want to give away a least as possible; and two, because the movie (like most WKW movies, for me, at least) is rather confusing. I will say that this one is even more confusing because some of the actors play different characters at different types of the film and there is a whole sci-fi and metastory thing going on.
So in lieu of giving away the story, I’ll comment on three aspects of the film that made me love it so much:
One: The sci-fi aspect of the story reminded me of another one of my favorite movies, Vanilla Sky. I love it when movies appear to be rather normal and straightforward for most of the film, and then at some point turn out to be totally different — and it’s even better when they turn out to be totally different in some strange dream/alternate universe/time travel/etc. method. The movie A.I. could be like that too… What I guess I like is when a movie contains an absurd element (cryogenic freezing in Vanilla Sky or an immortal android in A.I.), but at the same time tells an overly touching and emotional story about love or sadness or something. I think 2046 definitely has this aspect.
Two: Like the othe WKW movies, the cinematography is amazing. This one isn’t as shakey and “MTV-like” as Happy Together, but follows a style similar to In the Mood for Love. The camera work is often very slow and calculated. Rather than watching a movie, I often feel like I’m looking at beautifully composed still photographs. WKW also uses a lot of slow motion in his movies, but not in the cheesy violence-capturing or sappyness-extending methods that most Hollywood directors do. In addition to the way he works the camera, the colors are stunning. Most of the movie is very dark and shadowy (lots of dark greens, dark blues, dark reds), but a few times in the film (including the scenes that take place in “2046”), the style changes and really sets a different mood. (In addition to the scenes in “2046,” there is also a scene that shows some shots of a blue sky that is breathtaking — especially the way WKW captures the clouds: it looks like an ocean or something… truly amazing.) And finally, in what I could call another signature element of WKW movies, there is the mysterious and lovely touches of Latin/Spanish music. I’m still not sure what the signifigance of the musical choices indicate, but it works perfectly.
Three: In 2046 WKW really fleshes out the idea of chance encounters and falling in love with the right person at the wrong time, or the wrong person at the right time, or whatever. I won’t go into too many details about that now, but this quote summarizes it perfectly:
Love is all a matter of timing. It is no good meeting the right person… too soon or too late.
All things considered, 2046 may be the first Netflix movie that I watch more than once — that is, if I cannot find somewhere to order it from tonight (it still hasn’t been released to theatres, so any copy I can get probably isn’t the best quality). The movie was remarkable. I’m still not sure whether it beats Happy Together (which I love because of the gay themes and the fact I feel I can relate to the deteriorating and fucked up relationship somewhat), but it easily takes my number two spot.