2046 is the Palme apparent 5.22.04 Forum Index -> Tony Leung Articles
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PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2004 9:55 pm    Post subject: 2046 is the Palme apparent 5.22.04

Warning: Reviews contain spoilers

2046 is the Palme apparent
Saturday, May. 22, 2004

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Cannes, France — The Cannes Film Festival saved the best until near the end, with the Thursday-night screening of Wong Kar-wai's visually ravishing, intricately plotted new film about memory, loss and desire, entitled 2046.

After it arrived late for the festival last night, 2046 was shown simultaneously in two theatres to a mixed audience of public and press and appeared to become the consensus critical favourite. Some rival producers groused that Wong had ingeniously staged the delay of morning press screenings, to make his film the centre of attention and avoid any word of mouth on it.

At a press conference yesterday, Wong scoffed at the suggestion: "You think much too highly of me," he said sarcastically. He then referred the question to his French publicist who said the delay was a result of Wong's perfectionism. Wong added: "There is a joke I've been hearing for the past four years which makes me sick. It goes, 'Will your film be ready by 2046?' I'm happy that as of today I don't have to hear that joke any more."

Whether the Cannes jury, led by Quentin Tarantino, a long-time champion of the Hong Kong director, hands Wong the top prize is not a forgone conclusion, but 2046 must at least be considered the Palme apparent. (The strongest rival is French director Agnès Jaoui's bittersweet comedy Look at Me, about a young, overweight woman's attempts to win the attention of her egotistical author father.)

This was the year that Cannes, for the first time under the control of artistic director Thierry Frémaux, broke with many traditions, moving the festival away from its repertoire of traditional international art-house auteurs and adding more genre films, including Hollywood comedies, animation and an Asian action film. Wong, at once a pop-influenced radical and a devotee of classic cinema, creates worlds that are utterly his own. 2046 is his eighth film since 1988.

The story is a sequel to In the Mood for Love, Wong's art-house hit of 2000. In the Mood told the tale of a journalist, Mr. Chow (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), and a beautiful neighbour woman, Mrs. Su (Maggie Cheung), who live in Shanghai in 1960. When they discover their spouses are having an affair, they begin meeting clandestinely. In spite of their attraction, however, they decline to take the easy path. Actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai took a best-actor award at Cannes in 2000 for his performance as a man struggling to retain his composure.

The first couple of reels of 2046 seem maddeningly complicated, moving from animation to a film within a film and introducing several story strands. Then we get to Chow himself, who has moved back to Hong Kong after his divorce and his break-up with Mrs. Su. The refined noble man of In the Mood for Love has changed: He begins a freelance writing career, turning out pornography among other things. He drinks heavily, picking up women for one-night stands or paying prostitutes. He moves into a hotel, vacated by a nightclub performer he once knew.

Gradually, he crafts a science-fiction novel about the future named after his room number, 2046, with characters that are thinly disguised versions of the hotel manager and his daughter (Faye Wong), who has been suffering from severe depression since her father broke up her engagement to a Japanese man.

The plot moves forward in one-year increments, from one Christmas Eve to the next, moving through the 1960s. One narrative strand follows Chow's tempestuous affair with a beautiful, bad-tempered call girl named Miss Bai (Zhang Ziyi). Another concentrates on the hotel-keeper and his daughter. A third goes back in time to when he lived in Singapore and met a tragic, mysterious woman in a casino (Gong Li). A fourth explores the world of his novel in a film within a film.

More, though, than a story about one man's romantic entanglements with different women, 2046 is about a gorgeously sustained mood of elegy and melancholy, where experiences evoke memories, and the present is always coloured by the echoes of the past. Shot by Wong's brilliant cameraman, Christopher Doyle, and designed by William Chang, the world of Hong Kong in the late sixties is brought to life in faded yellows, rich greens and deep reds. The women, played by actresses who are among East Asia's most famous beauties, are costumed and coiffed in the look of the era, right down to the curl in their eyelashes.

The soundtrack includes opera, Nat King Cole and an original score by Shigeru Umebayashi and Peer Raben, the latter best known for his work on the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Compared to In the Mood, Wong's new film is like a series of fires rather than one intense candle, and it may not be quite the crowd-pleaser of the former film, with its noble, sacrificing characters. What the new film does do, at a time when genre cinema seems to rule the world, is reassert the power of the individual director's imagination and the potency of style, style, and more style.
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