Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Going to 2046

So, after much anticipation, I finally got my all region DVD copy of Wong Kar-Wai's new film 2046. The film surprised me in a lot of ways. It's got almost everything you'd expect from a WKW film, but also a lot of new elements, and particularly in the ending, this film feels different from most of what he's done before.

First, the film is goregous. Visually, WKW is unparalleled, it's not just the way he shoots, it's the entire mise en scene. The future stuff is phenomenal, but even in the 60s scenes, he creates really stylish environments for the characters to move in. Check it out...

The most interesting element for me was the sci-fi stuff. First, I love sci-fi, second, it's the most unique thing about the film in the context of WKW's career. While the 60s stuff is great, it's much more in tune with the rest of his work, whereas the sci-fi things look completely different from what he's done in the past, and the way he uses the sci-fi story is absolutely genius. The whole 2046 world is so perfectly tied in with the rest of the plot, and the metaphor behind it says everything about Chow.

One thing that surprised me was how much the film was tied in to In the Mood For Love. I'd heard that it was the same characters, but 2046 wasn't really a sequel. That's completely off. This film requires In the Mood For Love to really get it. The motivation for Chow's character comes from the events of In the Mood For Love, and to really understand what he's going through, you need that context. I would not reccomend seeing this film without seeing In the Mood For Love. However, having seen ITMFL, it was awesome to get a followup on the character, and to find out what's happened to him as a result of ITMFL. Another great moment was the return of Lulu from Days of Being Wild. Seeing her, combined with the music from Days brought back a lot of memories and added a history to this film that was really interesting. This film unites those two previous 1960s films into a trilogy that is connected within the story universe. It also gave the film a history that deepened the experience. It made the film fee like it wasn't just a two hour story that began and ended where the film began, it was an entire world that stretches for years, and we only see a little piece of it. It's a subtle distinction, but that this does is give the film so much more meaning. There's no feeling of resolution, or even beginning and ending within the film, it's a piece of lives, some that we've seen before, others that we haven't, it's a peek into another world.

My favorite part of the film was the introduction of 2046 in a rush of images from that world. You're given a tantalizing glimpse of many lives within this world, and a rush of astonishing images, and for a moment, you see Su Li Zhien, from In the Mood for Love, the very reason for the whole world of 2046. One of the coolest things about this sequence is the way it very quickly plays out the story of Chang Chen and Lulu. We see a jealous glance from him in the 60s, then in the 2046 segment, we see him angry as the robot Lulu has sex with some guy, which then leads us to the 60s again, where we see that Lulu has been stabbed. It's a great intertwining of the two stories. Now, I will admit that this sequence bothers me a bit because it's so full of interesting footage, and you get the feeling that there's hours of this stuff cut out of the finished film. This film has now joined Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me as the only film where I really need to see cut scenes from it, because there's clearly a ton of stuff cut out, including some stuff with Maggie Cheung as a robot that I'm really annoyed wasn't in the final film. I feel like in the same way that the FWWM cut scenes could make a nice little coda for Twin Peaks, some additional footage from 2046 could bring that story to a close. Maybe it'll turn up, if Criterion does a DVD, I'd imagine we'll see it.

The other phenomenal sequence was the story of the robot Faye. The return of the telling a secret into a hole motif from ITMFL was great. The whole story of Faye was heartbreaking. She was very convincing as a robot, and I loved the symbolic signifiance of the story. It applies to Faye/Chow in 2046, and also ties into Chow's relationship with Maggie Cheung from ITMFL. My favorite part of this story was when Faye decides to go to Japan in the present, so Tony tries to write a happy ending, in which the robot would presumably meet up with the person that she loved in the past, however, she just rides on the train, in a never changing state. The brilliant device of the intertitles showing how many hours have passed and nothing changed, for both the robot and Tony says so much. Tony is the robot Faye, despite the fact that there is someone who loves him, he cannot commit to her because he's still in love with Maggie, so he'll spend the rest of his live on this train, constantly changing, and yet everything's still the same. He gets together with other women, but he spends his whole life waiting for Maggie, never able to let go of her.

Chow calls 2046 the place you go to recapture lost memories, where nothing ever changes. 2046 is the hotel room where he and Maggie wrote their martial arts serials in ITMFL, and it's the place where the happiest time of his life occurred. However, in this film, he loves in room 2047, but is constantly getting involved with the women who live in 2046. He, like the Japanese man in his story, has left 2046, and can never get back there, though for this entire film, he tries to recapture it. In his story, he creates 2046 as a perfect place, where he could get Maggie back, and recapture that moment, but as it says at the end of ITMFL, that moment has passed and nothing that belongs to it exists anymore. He says love is all about timing, and he missed his time, and he's going to spend the rest of his life on that train just going through the same thing, never letting himself be as happy as he was. 2046 is the last year before change, and he's in 2047, it's impossible to get back to where he was.

This film stood out from WKW's other stuff in its pessimism. I suppose Days of Being Wild ended on a down note, but it had some good times along the way. This film is all about trying to get back to a past that can never be, and as a result, Chow ends up hurting everyone along his way, most notably Bai Ling. This film ends on a really downnote, ITMFL ended pretty low, but there was a sense of a new beginning, that the moment had passed and those people were moving on, but here, we only get the sense that Tony will drift further into depression, and that his life will never get better. There's none of the feeling at the end of Fallen Angels, of finding warmth amidst all the darkness, there's only the cold darkness, and we get the feeling that Chow has been utterly destroyed. He can only dream of a world where nothing changes and he can recapture his memories, because he'll never get back there.

I think it's notable that all of WKW's 60s movies end on a rather down note, whereas his present trilogy (Chungking, Fallen Angels, Happy Together) all end with a great song, and a sense of hope. The world of the 60s really is gone, and it was an era of change for all involved, through the films WKW is trying to return to an era that has been destroyed, something that's echoed in Chow's story.

I love the way this film ties together a lot of WKW's previous work. I feel directors like Tim Burton and David Lynch have a universe that most of their films take place in and WKW goes one step further, by explicitly connecting the films into one larger story.

Like most WKW films, the movie's been growing on me ever since I saw it. I went in expecting a bit more sci-fi, and a bit more Maggie Cheung, so there was a bit of disppointment, so I think I need another viewing to really evaluate it. I know Fallen Angels, on the first viewing I liked it, second viewing, it clicked and I loved it. I really feel like there's a whole other film out there with the footage of 2046, and that's something I'd love to see one day, but most importantly I really want to see that Maggie Cheung footage.

However, the use of the Maggie Cheung footage within the film was expert. WKW puts the audience in Chow's state of mind, by providing us with glimpses of the character, but never the reunion that both we and Chow want. That moment truly is gone, and she exists only in faded, blurry memories. Her story continues somewhere else, she too is probably unhappy, dreaming of what could have been, but she's chosen a family life to distract her, while Chow has chosen a bachelor lifestyle. I've got to give props to Tony Leung for this performance, I'd say his best in any film. You completely get his state of mind, and feel what he feels throughout the film. Considering what he does in the film, it's tough to make him sympathetic, but Tony pulls it off. WKW films work because the actors are so good that he can do whatever he wants with the camera and we still get the emotions.

So, a great film, and a summation of much of WKW's previous work. Rarely has a film been so geared to an "inside crowd," because this one requires a lot of previous WKW knowledge to really appreciate. However, as a part of the inside crowd, I loved it, and would highly reccomend it once you get through In the Mood For Love. The sci-fi stuff is perfectly integrated with the rest of the material, creating a really satisfying whole, with more layers than I could pick up on one viewing.

Related Posts
In the Mood for Love: The Deleted Scenes (1/9/2005)
2046 Screening with Wong Kar-Wai (6/16/2005)
Wong Kar-Wai Day (8/3/2005)

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