Monday, March 14, 2016

I'd Love to Turn You On At the Movies #136 - 2046 (2004, dir. Wong Kar-wai)

Chow Mo Wan: Take care. Maybe one day you'll escape your past. If you do, look for me.

Wong Kar-wai is one of the most accomplished and respected directors working in film today and there is no doubt in my mind that he deserves all of the reverence heaped upon him. This film, 2046, which is an odd, round-about sequel to his masterpieces Days of Being Wild (1990) and In the Mood for Love (2000), is certainly a testament to the talents of this director. The enthrallingly complex story, the gorgeous visuals, and the portrayals of the perfectly handpicked cast culminate in what is certainly a film that warrants multiple viewings and will most assuredly steal your heart as it has mine.

Weaving adeptly between the past, present, and a fictional science-fiction future (informed directly by the past) the story follows author Chow Mo-wan (Tony Chiu Wai Leung) through a variety of different periods of his life as well as the life of the fictional character that he writes for his series of "2046" stories. The plot is entirely too complex and full of beautiful nuance to truly do it justice in such a short synopsis. The only way that I might perhaps be able to describe the film in an attempt to advocate for its narrative is to try and convey just how engaging and successful Wong Kar-wai was in crafting a world (or worlds in this case) in which you, the viewer, are invited to spend some time. The film is both firmly rooted in a time period, yet timeless, and it is inhabited by fascinating characters that are equal parts elegant and human. When I reflect upon my time spent in the universe of 2046, I am hit equally by an intense empathetic remembrance of the emotions evoked by the characters throughout the story and my memory of the sheer elegance and splendor of the visuals of the setting that Wong Kar-Wai has created for his characters.

These two aspects are brought to life through the amazing performances of the actors and actresses and the beautiful cinematography by Christopher Doyle and Pung-Leung Kwan. In addition to the captivating and commanding performance of Tony Chiu Wai Leung as our leading man, Li Gong, Faye Wong (who was the enchanting co-lead again with Tony Chiu Wai Leung in Wong Kar-Wai's fantastic romantic comedy, Chungking Express (1994)), Takuya Kimura, Ziyi Zhang, Carina Lau and many others provide skillfully nuanced performances that bring life to the beautiful scenery. While an amazing lead performance is certainly necessary, it is the strength of the supporting cast that makes the story of our leading man truly worth following. This immense story of love and loss, and humanity's often unhealthy worship of and escape to the past would be nothing without the hypnotic performances of all of the actors and actresses in this film.

Often when I think about the films of Wong Kar-wai my mind is immediately drawn to just how magnificently they are shot and the fact that I can't help but be swept into the plot of a film that inhabits such a lush, wondrous and striking space. My experience with Kar-Wai’s films has been rather strange as 2046 was the first of his films that I saw and it directly and tacitly references two of his more venerated works. Initially after seeing the trailer for the film and the poster/design campaign behind the film, I was drawn to the set design, costume design, art direction, and sheer exquisiteness of every detail of the movie. I then decided that I needed to watch the film and see what it was all about, it was then that the true power of the story and multifaceted narrative took me over. After that I insatiably sought out as much of the director’s work as I could find, beginning with In the Mood for Love and Chungking Express (and then on to many others).

Even though this film is in many ways a strange sort of sequel to a couple of Wong Kar-wai's films, I wouldn't say that I regret watching the pieces in reverse order, so if you have or haven't seen Days of Being Wild and/or In the Mood for Love I would recommend this film regardless. For me this film was the gateway to the world of an amazingly talented director and I would be delighted if I was able to assist in turning you on to this film.
Edward Hill

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