2046

Wong Kar-wai's years-in-the-making sequel to IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000) is an intoxicatingly beautiful, maddeningly elliptical and utterly enthralling meditation on the fleeting pleasures and haunting aftermath of doomed romance. In 1966, four years after journalist Mr. Chow (MOOD star Tony Leung) had his achingly chaste relationship with a married woman,...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Wong Kar-wai's years-in-the-making sequel to IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000) is an intoxicatingly beautiful, maddeningly elliptical and utterly enthralling meditation on the fleeting pleasures and haunting aftermath of doomed romance. In 1966, four years after journalist Mr. Chow (MOOD star Tony Leung) had his achingly chaste relationship with a married woman, heartbreak has transformed him into a lothario. His handsome face despoiled by a sleazy little moustache, Chow covers the tarnished glamour of Hong Kong's nightclub scene, where he runs into old acquaintance Lulu (Carina Lau) — though she swears her name is Mimi, and coyly declines to remember Chow — and winds up escorting her home to the sumptuously rundown Orient Hotel. Her room number, 2046, is the same as that of the hotel room he once rented as an office, and where he and the woman he loved and lost met. Chow winds up moving into the adjoining room, 2047, and entering into a series of liaisons with the women who succeed Lulu — who's murdered by a jealous boyfriend — in 2046. But 2046 is more than a room number: It's also a year in the future, when the erotic science-fiction novel Chow is writing takes place, and a destination within that novel — itself titled "2046" — as well. 2046 is the place where people go to recapture their lost memories. Chow's longest relationship is with exquisitely beautiful prostitute Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi); they're drinking buddies and confidantes first, and the night they become lovers marks the beginning of the end of an affair that wounds both more deeply than either admits. Chow helps Wang Jingwen (Faye Wong), the hotelier's daughter and a talented aspiring writer, conduct an epistolary romance with the Japanese boyfriend of whom her father vehemently disapproves, and goes in search of a woman from his past, a professional gambler from Cambodia nicknamed "Black Spider" (Gong Li). Her real name is Su Lizhen, also the name of his married love. Chow's life and his sci-fi novel are inextricably intertwined (scenes from "2046" and its variation, "2047," are dramatized throughout with the cast reimagined as sexy androids and haunted time travelers), as are 2046 and Wong's films: Carina Lau played Lulu/Mimi in his debut, DAYS OF BEING WILD (1991); Faye Wong starred in his CHUNGKING EXPRESS (1996); Maggie Cheung (IN THE MOOD's Su Lizhen) is reincarnated in Gong Li. But the film's dizzying hall-of-mirrors games are incidental to its elusive, swoony visual poetry, cut with a faint whiff of melancholy; even a newcomer can get lost in its beauty.

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