This particular film review is much more than a reaction and opinion to a piece of cinematic artwork, it’s a homage. Think about this review as a giant thank-you letter to Cynthia Felando, a film professor here at UCSB. Without her, I would not know who Wong Kar-Wai is, and I probably never would have taken the initiative to go out and see such a beautiful movie as “2046.” Thanks to the Film 101C class, it is obvious that “2046” is the latest example of Hong Kong new wave. One of China’s most celebrated directors, Wong Kar-Wai makes films that are technically innovative and sophisticated in their dialogue (not unlike 1994’s “Chungking Express”). “2046” features Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Li Gong, both veterans of past Wong films, along with the beautiful Zhang Ziyi.
Don’t let the title fool you, “2046” is not some futuristic detective story. This is deep, heart-ripping melodrama to the core. The story centers on Chow Mo Wan (Chiu Wai), a writer who turns his escapades in love into stories about a futuristic train ride. The film begins with Chow going back to Hong Kong after failing to convince his lover, Su Li Zhen (Gong), to come with him. While in Hong Kong, Chow hides his depression under many substitute lovers. He meets many women, including Bai Ling (Zhang), who fall in love with him. The dialogue in between each new meeting is superb. The characters use their words to dance and jab around each other. Each character seems to understand that once they state the obvious about how they really feel toward the other, the game is up and they have lost. Unable to get over his past, Chow is incapable of expressing his mutual love to these new romantic interests. The audience follows Chow’s voice over each time through the peaks and valleys of love. After every encounter, Chow creates a new story for his novel entitled, 2046.
2046 is a futuristic train where love is instantly found and where no one ever leaves. On the train, Chow is the only passenger and the women he encounters are androids. Metaphorically, the androids look like the women he falls in love with and act similarly to their real world counterparts. These sequences on the trains are quick summations of how Chow feels about each new woman. This futuristic location is how Chow makes sense of the feelings he is having but is unable to express. Wong’s version of the future is beautiful, while endlessly lonely and impersonal.
By the end of the film, Chow has not reconciled his depression; rather he is able to better understand it. He proclaims, “Love is just a matter of timing. It does you no good to meet the right person too early or too late.” Wong also flexes his directorial muscles, taking time out of the narrative to represent teardrops as simple gleams of light that flash across the screen. Interestingly, Wong also switches from using color to using black and white, invoking the feeling of 1960s film. The director’s controlling presence is obviously clear throughout the film.
Extreme in its emotions, the film asks the viewer to constantly put himself in the character’s shoes. This film exemplifies how healthy cinema is in the rest of the world. If film were food, “2046” would be a top choice. For those who know her, Felando would probably refer to Wong’s latest picture as “simply delicious.”