Movie Review: 2046

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International

"2046" is the visually sumptuous, stylized sequel to the ineffable "In the Mood for Love" helmed by writer-director Wong Kar-Wai. Tony Leung plays Hong Kong newspaperman turned novelist, Chow Mo Wan. Mo Wan possesses charisma that women find irresistible. The "2046" cast includes the most important Asian actresses of our time: Gong Li, Faye Wong, Ziyi Zhang, Carina Lau and Maggie Chung who each deliver a notable performance opposite Leung.

The number 2046 is the hotel room where Mo Wan stays. In the first film Chow Mo Wan is betrayed by his wife and spurned by his lover. The dream-like "2046" explores the psychology of a man whose life becomes a reaction to the earlier rejections. He is unable to make meaningful lasting connections in his relationships. The futuristic erotic novel Mo Wan is writing rehashes his past. Trains and tunnels are a metaphor for a journey into unconscious material.

Twenty-three year acting veteran Tony Leung – with 73 films and TV shows to his credit - won Best Actor Prize in 2000 at Cannes for "In the Mood for Love." Leung is widely regarded as Hong Kong's most distinguished screen actor. In an interview for "2046" I asked Leung what makes him so compelling on the big screen. He said that he enjoys acting so much that people can feel it. He said that for him acting is intuitive and it helps him express his real feelings. Leung has an ineffable presence that makes his characters impossible to forget. His warmth and charm, and, let's face it -- sex appeal –comes across on the big screen. It's in his minutely nuanced facial expressions, the way he carries himself, and, like chemistry between lovers, something no one can define.

Somehow Kar-Wai makes the emotionally unavailable philanderer Chow Mo Wan desirable. Even though Mo Wan is unfaithful and emotionally withholding, he has a sweetness and vulnerability that makes him irresistibly appealing -- a bad boy that a woman can’t resist.

"In the Mood for Love" cinematographer Christopher Doyle – with 43 films to his credit - including "Rabbit Proof Fence" and another Kar-Wai film "Days of Being Wild" - returns for "2046." His camera captures Leung’s subtle expression shifts, giving us visual hints about interior spaces, the main focus of "2046." In slow motion nightclub scenes Mo Wan shows his public face as a player and womanizer. In these scenes you can almost smell the smoke and alcohol and feel what it’s like to be slightly drunk and escaping reality. Significant emotional moments, such as a lover leaving for the last time, are shown in a slowed-down speed, conveying the bitter intensity of the moment. Like "In the Mood for Love," "2046" features 1960’s Hong Kong haute couture. Interesting angles and symbolic juxtapositions achieve the level of a work of art.

Like a dream, "2046" seems to operate at an unconscious level. I asked Leung what he thinks "2046" is about, and he said, "There's no specific direction for the audience to follow, so you better not follow anything; don't force yourself to figure out which direction you should follow, you just feel it. Very much like our feelings." Kar-Wai doesn’t give his actors scripts or tell them what the film is about. Like life, the story unfolds as they go. Like a dream, "2046" touches us on an emotional level, something only the most skilled directors can accomplish.

For Movie Magazine International, this is Joan Widdifield. ©
Air date: 8/10/05
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Written and directed by Kar Wai Wong - In Cantonese, Japanese, Mandarin