The central character from 'in the mood for love' is reprised as a deeply jaded modern Casanova in 1960's Hong kong. Love is intricately bound to loss for him and his Hong Kong exploits serve to inflict this view upon his amorous conquests. The period detail and nuance of character and acting are exceptional. The same themes from 'in the mood for love' are blown up onto a radically large, disjointed canvas encompassing mirror narratives and a science fiction future. Is some of the effectiveness of the earlier work lost in the process? Maybe so but the artistic imagination and emotional evocation of themes make up for this.
2046 is used to stand for that which is desired and simultaneously unattainable. A date too far in the future for the characters to live to. Through the main character Tony Leung's writing of a short story 2047 and a future narrative set on a bullet train the idea that love is already lost is repeatedly evoked. This supremely jaded view of life and love is brought out in all the central character's doings.'I,m already missing you' black spider tells him in Singapore. Fictional episodes penned by Tony Leung blend with the main narrative to constantly stir up this tragic outlook. The viewer is left haunted and spellbound by the sumptuous visual realization of the lives of the characters in Hong Kong, and by the bravado and imagination of the science fiction story within a story. For someone unfamiliar with Wong Kar-wai's earlier work this could all seem like a bridge too far. But fans of 'in the mood for love' will recognize an accomplished master letting loose with all the tools and imagination in a considerable arsenal.
This is a rough, simplified plot synopsis, but the movie is much more complex than this, and it requires repeated viewings to enhance understanding. The repeated viewings are extremely rewarding, as this film is one of those art objects from which the viewer can draw new insights with each reexperiencing of it.
The cinematography is beautiful, and the musical score is absolutely superb and moving, underscoring the emotions felt by the characters. The music is designed to enhance our experience of each scene and to intensify emotion. Granted, the film is not an easy one to follow. Personally, I felt confused at times, especially on a first viewing. But at such moments you can just let yourself go with the emotion carried through image and sound.
"2046" rewards us with a beautiful and talented cast. I really enjoyed watching all the actresses that paraded on screen, among them Zhang Ziyi, of "Hero" and "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon," Gong Li, Carina Lau, Faye Wong and Maggie Cheung, all of them giving superb performances.
As other reviewers have noted, it is not mandatory to see the prequel "In the Mood for Love" to understand "2046," but it is well worth it, as there are many symbols from the previous film repeated in this one, and a scene where Su Lizhen reappears in Chow's memory. Personally, I liked "2046" better.
Finally, I have to add that this film, though from my point of view amazing, is certainly not for everyone. If you prefer a straightforward storyline and a plot where things are happening all the time, then this film is not for you. This film emphasizes emotional experience at the expense of plot. As long as you come prepared for this, and with the right expectations, it is a great film, very rewarding and very worthy of repeated viewings.
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