One of the most unique and mesmerizing films of 2005, "2046," by director Kar Wai Wong, tells the story of a writer whose vision of the future is the reincarnation of his past.
Set in a surreal 1960's but at the same time in a futuristic dreamland that exists only in the head of Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung), the movie follows the several romantic and sexual relationships of the struggling writer. Living in a small apartment complex, Chow meets many beautiful women that catch his eye, but his lonely affection for the one love of his life (as explained more thoroughly in "In the Mood for Love," the pseudo-prequel to this one) never allows him to grow attached to anyone else, even if they include Ziyi Zhang (my future wife).
The film has a magical elegance about it, something rarely found in American films anymore. "2046" feels like an old school American romance with modern sensibilities and an Asian twist. The sets look like something from a Frank Sinatra movie, but "2046" transcends nationalities. The actors in the film speak their native languages, whether speaking Mandarin, Cantonese or Japanese, yet in Wong's world they can all understand each other - and to American white boys like me I didn't even notice.
The appearance of the film alone makes it worth it. Set design is rich, and Wong's vision of the future is unique and surreal, based in reality but never completely realized into solid form. That may not make any sense if you haven't seen the film, but it describes things perfectly nonetheless.
The real magic of the film is in the characters, who are well-crafted, well-written and well-acted. Leung, in the lead, is fabulous as the seemingly emotionally cold writer who is really anything but; while he hurts so many women without a second's hesitation, his longing for Su Li Zhen (Li Gong) makes him a character we can relate to. After all, he is looking for love just like everyone else. Zhang also delivers an excellent performance in the most serious roles I've seen in her.
"2046" is a romantic drama unlike any other, and is easily one of the year's finest films. I see a Best Foreign Picture award in the near future...
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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