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February 28, 2011 | by  | in Film |
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2046

In 2000, Wong Kar-Wai stunned the world (well, Cannes) with In the Mood For Love, a poetic and painful portrayal of an illicit affair between a married newspaper writer and the married newspaper woman who lives across the hall from him. 2046 comes in several years after that film—the relationship between newspaperman Chow Mo-Wan and the glamorous Mrs. Chan has been cruelly cut short, and we find Chow drifting through life without motivation. His writing no longer has any passion, churned out to make ends meet; his relationships lack a similar spark, Chow instead honing his skill as a ‘ladies man’. Love is hard, and Chow’s feeling the sharp end of it.

2046 is all about loss and looking back—how a person’s life can end up being consumed by what they’ve done, to the point that making peace with the past is merely a fancy way of acknowledging that they’re not changing any time soon. Chow, masterfully played by Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, has relinquished his responsibilities to sensitivity and relationships, while the women he spends his Christmas Eves with are all stuck in ruts that require actual effort to escape. Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi, a revelation here) is a brash callgirl in love with the wrong guy, Chow himself; Jing-wen is stuck between her father’s not-unjustifiable problems with the Japanese and her love for a Japanese man; Su Li-zhen is mourning a loss unidentified, and has been for a time unspecified. They may not admit it, but they’ve first hand knowledge of love, how unexpected, messy, and just plain tragic it can be.

2046’s brilliance isn’t just in its characters and performances, though. Wong’s film is also achingly beautiful, his palette of striking reds, deep greens and sterile yellows creating a 1960s Hong Kong that reflects the trials and anxieties of its citizens, as well as a stylised sci-fi future drenched in extinguished desires. Coupled with Shigeru Umebayashi’s lush, haunting score, 2046 is sensationally evocative, a landscape of the aftermath of love and the people afflicted by it.

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