Wong Kar-Wai’s 2046 is an extended mood piece, a piece of science fiction and a series of interconnected love stories and is one of the greatest cinema masterpieces of the century so far. More than even his previous masterpiece In The Mood for Love, in 2046 Wong Kar-Wai goes beyond mere narrative and exposition to put life and expressed emotion onto film. He directs with more class and assurance that perhaps any other director since the birth of cinema.
If you were cynical you could view the film in part as a masterclass for aspiring advertising art directors, but it’s had not to be eventually become enthralled by the design and staging of each scene, of each beautifully crafted and art directed scene. It’s like you’ve died and gone to art director’s heaven.
One of the many facets of the film is the strength and depth of the performances the director gets from all the central characters. It took Wong Kar-Wai four years to make but the freshness and immediacy of the performances are all over the screen and stay in your memory long after you’ve seen the film, which is why it won the Palme D’Or at Cannes.
2046 is probably Chinese superstar Zhang Ziyi’s finest hour, as New York Times critic Manohla Dargis said “Ms. Zhang’s shockingly intense performance burns a hole in the film that gives everything, including all the other relationships, a sense of terrific urgency.”
Like many great works of art, 2046 grows with repeated viewing. The depth of the emotions and performances can be overlooked at first viewing and there are many elements to enjoy beyond the obvious surface shimmer of the lighting and camerawork.
The title 2046, for example, has many possible meanings. Is it the number of the hotel room where Tony Leung’s character Mr Chow met Maggie Chung in In The Mood For Love, the title of his science fiction work, or the year when Hong Kong finally loses it’s quasi-independence and politically becomes part of mainland China after 50 years of self-regulation?
With the passing of more than a decade since its release is it worth watching and rewatching 2046 in the expectation of finding something new? You could watch this film every year for the next 50 years and still find something fresh to admire every time. Wong Kar-Wai makes films that have an eloquence of visual language that goes far beyond mere words, and this is one of his very best.