2046 (director/writer: Wong Kar-wai; cinematographers: Christopher Doyle, Lai Yiu Fai and Kwan Pun Leung; editor: William Chang Suk-ping; music: Peer Rabin and Shigeru Umebayashi; cast: Tony Leung Chiu-wai (Chow Mo Wan), Ziyi Zhang (Bai Ling), Gong Li (Su Li Zhen), Faye Wong (Wang Jing Wen), Maggie Cheung Man-yuk (Slz1960), Carina Lau Ka-ling (Lulu), Takuya Kimura (Japanese lover), Chang Chen (cc1966), Takuya Kimura (Tak); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Wong Kar-wai; Sony Pictures Classics; 2004-China-in Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese with English subtitles)
“Visually stunning.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Wong Kar-wai’s (“Chungking Express”) latest, his ninth film, which took five years to make and is his first ‘Scope feature, is also his most expensive, ambitious, artiest and longest film to date–not to overlook his most tedious and perhaps his most personal. It tells a languid noirish romantic sci-fi tale about desire and loss, as it relates to numerous women in the lives of the forlorn protagonist. Though visually stunning (showing off a CGI futuristic cityscape) and brilliantly conceived as sublime art (sensual color shadings that smolder on the screen), the narrative lacks enough substance to match the intensity of the visuals. It’s something critics of the filmmaker call him to task for, and I tend to agree with that assessment.

Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) is the same writer character played by Leung in Wong’s “In the Mood for Love,” but he’s become lost as a cynical ladies’ man and gambler earning his keep writing pulp stories for a magazine and working as a hack newspaper reporter.

The title has a double meaning: It refers to the room number in the seedy Hong Kong ‘Oriental Hotel’ occupied by a succession of sexy women. Chow resides in the next door room of 2047 and gets involved with these lovely well-dressed women. It also refers to the date in the future, which is the title of Chow’s ongoing book that mixes fantasy with the author’s personal experiences. Chow uses the affair of his hotel landlord Wang’s oldest daughter Jing Wen (Faye Wong) with a Japanese suitor named Tak (Takuya Kimura), of whom the bigoted father disapproves. In the book, Tak travels by train to 2046, an unchanging place where people go to gain back their lost memories, and tries to persuade his female android lover there, called wjw 1967 (Faye Wong), to return to the “present of 1967” with him.

Chow, in his confused state of romantic disillusionment, lives out the remainder of the 1960s courting the following women–very briefly he’s with someone named Slz1960 (Maggie Cheung), a gambler named Su Lizhen (Gong Li), his landlord’s daughter Jing Wen, a playful but vulnerable prostitute Bai (Zhang Ziyi), and the volatile carefree dancer Lulu (Carina Lau Ka Ling)–while restlessly bouncing between Singapore and Hong Kong, measuring time by his affairs. Most of the film takes place between 1966 and 1969.

Though brilliant in parts, it lacks an overall clarity as the lonely lovelorn hero lives out his hedonistic life haunted by memories of possibilities that never happened and the viewer also waits for something to happen–but will be just as addled as any of the romantic fatalist residents in the Oriental Hotel.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”