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PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2004 10:46 pm    Post subject: Film Review: 2046 Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Warning: Reviews contain spoilers

Film Review: 2046
Fri May 21, 2004 10:34 PM ET

By Kirk Honeycutt
CANNES (Hollywood Reporter) - Years in the making and hugely anticipated, Wong Kar-wai's "2046" is a keen disappointment.

Because the film arrived 24 hours late for its Cannes debut and one of its star actresses, Maggie Cheung, has been reduced to a "special appearance by" role, one can only guess that in the chaos of revisions, re-edits and rethinking, the director lost his narrative thread. The employment of voice-overs and pretentious quotes onscreen to help viewers understand what is going on with the characters only points up how badly the movie gets engulfed in a storytelling fog.

With an array of actors including Tony Leung, Gong Li, Zhang Ziyi, Faye Wong and Japanese star Kimura Takuya all handsomely costumed and photographed by no fewer than three accomplished cinematographers, "2046" will assuredly travel widely. But even the art house crowd will find the film off-putting not only because of its vagueness but because of its thoroughly unlikable characters.

The film more or less occupies the same physical and emotional landscape as Wong's previous film, "In the Mood for Love," made four years ago. The story again takes place in the 1960s, mostly in Hong Kong but with sequences in Shanghai and Singapore. While shot in widescreen, the characters are claustrophobically caged up in tiny flats, narrow corridors and small restaurants. Everyone dresses elegantly in '60s-style clothes and hairdos, cigarette smoke still curls in the air in artistic patterns, and American pop music plays softly in the background.

Leung plays Chow Mo Wan, a journalist-turned-novelist who is writing a book called "2046," supposedly a futuristic story. In actuality, that is the room number of the flat next to his, which is occupied by pretty women whose company he keeps. In his story, a passenger has boarded a train headed for 2046, where the hostess is an android who can never leave the train. Yet the more he writes, the more the story delves into his past.

The writer moves into the Hong Kong flat in 1966, a year before the riots against the then-British authorities, and most of the movie centers on the next three years in that building. A charismatic man, he has many women -- all of whom he treats with a casual flippancy bordering on contempt. But his main fixation is on the occupant of 2046.

The first is Bai Ling (Zhang). Starting out as "drinking buddies," the two wind up in a torrid romance. When his ardor predictably wanes, Bai Ling is devastated because she has fallen in love with him. She finally abandons the flat.

The landlord then installs his daughter (Wong) in the flat. She is too in love with her Japanese boyfriend (Takuya), of whom her father disapproves, to become more than a friend to the writer. He clearly longs for her, but it is hard to gauge how brokenhearted he truly is since he mostly is a brooding presence in the movie.

Sometimes the film shifts in tine and place to other liaisons with characters played by Gong and Carina Lau Ka Ling. These all end with tears and abruptness, but given the superficiality of the characters -- the women are more lovely figments of fantasy rather than flesh-and-blood characters -- nothing pulls you into their lives. Nothing compels your interest other than their beauty and mystery.

The theme here seems to be that of memory, of how people dwell in the past without ever achieving any resolution or closure. But the stilted dialogue and a mostly stagnant story line gum up the works. Voice-over comments like "all memories are moist" don't help matters. Whatever does that mean?

Wong's technical crew, shooting in several Asian cities, most definitely creates a striking mood that falls somewhere between romance and melancholy. Sadly, the director is unable to take advantage of these amazing actors and an arresting design.

Block 2 Pictures and Paradis Films, Orly Films, Classic SRL, Shanghai Film Group present a Jet Tone Films production.

Cast: Chow Mo Wan: Tony Leung Chiu Wai; Su Li Zhen: Gong Li; Tak: Kimura Takuya; Wang Jin Wen: Faye Wong; Bai Ling: Zhang Ziyi; Lulu/Mimi: Carina Lau Ka Ling.

Screenwriter-director-producer: Wong Kar-wai; Director of photography: Christopher Doyle, Lai Yui Fai, Kwan Pun Leung; Production designer/editor: William Chang Suk Ping; Music: Peer Raben, Shigeru Umebayashi.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter
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