An unofficial 'sequel' to his 2000 masterpiece In the Mood for Love, Wong Kar Wai's 2046 centres around a journalist (Tony Leung) who regrets his failed love for a married woman in the early 1960s. He escapes to a Hong Kong hotel room and tries to distract himself by sleeping with as many women as possible, until he meets his match in escort Bai Ling (Ziyi Zhang), who lives next door in room 2046.
In Asia filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai is a superstar, pulling crowds of thousands to the premieres of his films. And since the late 1990s at international film festivals - around the time when Happy Together scored the Best Director prize at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival - he has been regarded as one of the most gifted directors around. While many of his films have been selected at Australian festivals it wasn't until In The Mood For Love (2000) that Director Wong was introduced to a wider Australian film-going audience.
His latest love story 2046 is considered an unofficial 'sequel' to that film, and is sure to further his reach. 2046 marks the sixth time actor Tony Leung and Wong Kar-Wai have worked together. In 2046 he plays loosely the same character as he did in In The Mood For Love, Chow, a writer. It is still the 1960s and to escape the failed romance of ITMFL, Chow comes to live at yet another Hong Kong hotel. This time though Chow is not going to take love too seriously. He distracts himself by working on a tragic science fiction love story set in the year 2046, and by going out with as many women as possible. Until he meets his match in Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi), an escort who lives next door in room 2046. They spar back and forth until the relationship starts to become too much for either of them to bear. And that's just for starters in this rich romantic melodrama.
2046 dips in and out of various time frames, memories and environments, and characters dance in and out of the narrative freely, just as Wong Kar-Wai would have it. The film's script seems written more like a piece of music than anything Robert McKee would prescribe in one of his 'three act structure' screenwriting seminars. Which is not so unusual for Wong Kar-Wai who prefers to approach film from a musical standpoint than from 'the word'.. Each film he makes has him 'dance' with strangers, that is us, the audience. But if anything 2046 could be called 'In The Mood For Sex'. Gone is the unfulfilled physical yearning that made In The Mood For Love so heart wrenching. It is replaced in 2046 with a series of fun but emotionally paralysed sexual interludes. It’s almost like the (Peaches) song says: here the characters are trying to 'f_ck the pain away’. But no-one does the anguish of heartbreak like Wong Kar-Wai and watching 2046 was another exquisite torment. It is so stylistically beautiful and acutely emotional that I was torn between fleeing the cinema because I just couldn’t stand the pain anymore and, not wanting the film to stop for one second. And Wong Kar-Wai sure knows how to pick his actors. Tony Leung (Infernal Affairs) needs to carry a permit for the type of charisma he possesses; he’s fatally seductive. The same goes for his 2046 female acting counterparts Gong Li (Red Sorghum), Zhang Ziyi (House Of Flying Daggers), Maggie Cheung (Irma Vep) et al, for all the same reasons. Wrapping up human frailty in such luminous beauty reminds us just why it is we crave cinema. It can be so magic and heightened, an experience beyond words, unlike any other. Like In The Mood For Love, 2046 reinforces this simple fact. I for one am very grateful.