Traveling somewhere in an alternate reality, sailing somewhere between Brechtian nihalism and Ozuian melancholy, the breathlessly anticipated 2046 may seem totally Kubrickian in nature, but it is definately still all Wong Kar-wai in body and essence.
Four years in the making, and possibly still not truly finished (but then again, Wong's film are like a natural seamless procession from one to another, so it's actually like a lifelong work-in-progress style filmmaking anyway), 2046 pounds its way into theatres across the globe with a steady, pulsating double heartbeat of romance and fantasy - like Tarkovsky on Ecstacy. So, after a debut at last year's Cannes (where a Director-admitted non-final version was screened) and theatrical runs in Hong Kong and The UK, it appears as if Wong's latest ever-evolving, seemingly endless post-production-laden film, may finally reach US shores in 2005 (Sony Classics has bought the rights and will most likely release the film in late June / early July - hopefully).*
Wong, whose films of a decade ago (Chungking Express, Fallen Angels, Happy Together) have a deliriously frenetic energy to them, not unlike a young sexually-burgeoning teenager, has of late, evolved into a mature moody master of malaise. Equally masterful as his earlier aforementioned films, although a complete turn-around in nuance and nature, 2046, along with its semi-prequel, In the Mood for Love, shows the voice and talent of a supremely confidant Auteur of elegance (although his confidance may wane when it comes to finally finishing his film).
2046 is the continuing (albeit slightly reworked) story of In the Mood for Love's Mr. Chow (the brooding Tony Leung), who is now a writer of Science Fiction stories (as well as a more brutish fatalistic character).
He writes of a future where people board an ubiquitous train for the destination of 2046, all the while living in room 2047 of the Hotel Oriental in Hong Kong. The number, you see, is significant to Chow - it was the room where Leung's Chow had the affair with Maggie Cheung's Su Lizhen in In the Mood for Love, and it is now the room where a line of beautiful women stream through Chow's new life (it is also, by the way, the year in which Hong Kong once again reverts back to Mainland Chinese control - so this is even deeper than we first suspect).
Most significant in Chow's female companionship are Zhang Ziyi as Bai Ling, a young prostitute who falls for Chow, Gong Li as a different (read: doppleganger?) Su Lizhen that Chow falls for and Faye Wong as the hotel keeper's daughter, Wang Jin Wen, who helps Chow out in his writings. As Chow's stories become more elaborate, he believes the characters are more real than those women in his real life (indeed, Faye Wong also doubles as an android lover in his stories). The oft-mention parable about whispering your secrets into the hole of a tree and then covering it with mud, is played as metaphor for Chow's own secrets that he hides in his stories - as well as for the many shots of Chow peeking through the hotel walls to watch these women he subtly and rather unwittingly seduces.
Beautifully photographed by Christopher Doyle (Hero), as well as two other cinematographers (there was a lot of turmoil on the set after all and it shows somewhat in the stylistic inconsistancies), Wong Kar-wai's long-awaited 2046 is yet another masterpiece in a long line of the same - I've seen five Wong films and in doing so, I have seen five Wong masterpieces. [03/03/05]
* An August 2005 US release date has since been announced.