2046 (2004)

2046 (2004)
Dir. Wong kar-Wai
Starring: Tony Leung, Zhang Yi-yi, Gong-Li, Faye Wong, etc.
8/10

This film screened either this year or last. It would have probably been one of my favorites in either year. The idiots into foreign art films would be interested in this film, although I think Mitchell has the most potential for liking this. His previous films should be seen prior to this one.

Wong is becoming a favorite of mine. I’m not sure what it is about his films. I like his sense of time and storytelling, really a unique flow. What he chooses to spend time on and his sense of editing and selection of camera shots seem a bit off-beat and unconventional. It’s as if he’s not locked into conventional storytelling devices and approaches; he seems comfortable with leaving a story to focus on things that are interesting to him–maybe a character, mood, emotion or even a certain image. Yet the film has a unity and logic to it. I also like the look of his films although it’s the entire filmmaking style that’s compelling.

In this film, there’s a Chinese Breakfast at Tiffany’s vibe to the movie–specifically the costumes, hairstyles and characters. I(While watching the film, I felt like Wong set the movie in the 60s, so he could have an excuse to recreate that vibe.) While there some superficial similiarities to Breakfast, this is much more interesting film thematically, and character-wise.

The story is about a man, a sort of playboy, and three women in his life. In the commentary, Wong talked about how each relationship reveals something about the man (and the other women).

(spoiler)

I was really blown away and excited by the fact that this was a continuation of In the Mood for Love. I had no idea until almos the end of the picture. This revelation put a spin on the first 3/4 of the film. Instead of seeing Chow (Leung) as a shallow womanizer, I saw him as a man wanting to approach women without emotions or trying to escape from his past. He became more sympathetic in my eyes. He was a sort of James Bond character. He becomes a womanizer after he’s hurt by someone he really loved and trusted.

12 Responses to “2046 (2004)”


  1. Arlyn

    I saw Wong Kar Wai on Charlie Rose where he said both In the Mood for Love and 2046 started filming in the same year.

    I watched 2046 over the weekend but need to see it a second time before commenting.

  2. Reid

    I watched it again, too. When was the last time you saw In the Mood? I re-watched In the Mood recently, and discussed it quite a bit with another person, so my recollection of ItMfL is still pretty good. That was pretty helpful. Also, there’s another film that is loosely connected with both films that should also be seen at some point.

    Anyway, for both ItMfL and 2046, remembering the sequence of events and details of these events can be very difficult. (I’m hoping we can sort of those out in this thread.)

    I’ll try to post more thoughts later.

  3. Reid

    Some thoughts and questions:

    What the film is about
    I think the film is primarily about the way people who are in love still manage to be unhappy. The film suggests two primary reasons for this: 1) Love is a matter of timing. As Chow (Tony Leung) says, finding the right person too early or too late really isn’t worth much. The world is filled with the right people meeting at the wrong time; 2) Falling in love with someone who is already in love with someone else.

    Does that cover it? This leaves out the situation of meeting someone and never really connecting with that person, for whatever reason. Perhaps, this isn’t as painful as the situations above, but it make someone pretty unhappy, especially if it keeps happening.

    Chow and the women
    Chow has three relationships (maybe four) in the film, and I think analyzing the three would help our understanding of the film.

    • Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi): Here Bai is the one who loves Chow, but Chow loves someone else, so he can’t reciprocate her love. I think this shows an interesting side to Chow’s character because in ItMfL, he seems like such a nice and conservative guy. With Bai, he’s basically a heartless ladies man. But we know, or learn, that he is like this because he’s still broken hearted from Su Li-zhen. So he’s basically floating around
    • Su Li-zhen, aka “Black Spider” (Li Gong). Two things come to mind. Black Spider has a hidden and mysterious past (represented by the black glove) that she. Does she loves someone else? Has she committed some terrible act? (Did she kill her lover, perhaps? The Black Spider might allude to a black widow.) So she represents the way our past haunts us and ruins the present.
      The other thing is that Chow realizes that it’s not just her past that comes between them, but his past–specifically his love for the first Su Li-zhen.
    • Jing-wen (Faye Wong)Jing-wen is love with the Japanese guy, but they’re separated. Through Chow’s help she is able to marry the guy. There are two aspects about her character and role in the film that I’m still unsure about.

      First, I’m wondering if Chow starts falling for her. I think he does, but I don’t think he really does love her because he’s still in love with Su Li-zhen. So the android attendant in the story, “2047,” represents Jing-wen, while the Japanese guy represents Chow.

      The second question I had involved the meaning of “2047.” Chow writes the story as a response to Jing-wen’s query, “does anything last forever (or is there nothing that changes)?” At the end of the story, the android (played by Faye Wong) doesn’t respond to the Japanese traveler because she’s in love with someone else–not because she doesn’t like him or because of delayed reaction. So Chow’s response seems to be that one’s love last forever, except the story has a sad twist because that android is in love with someone other than the Japanese passenger. (I love the way the ending of the story dovetails with the Chow’s attempt to re-write a happier ending in his story.) So what never changes is being in love, without being with the lover. And this is the way the film seems to end as well–with Chow realizing this that he can never really love anyone else and that he’s trapped in the memory of that love (which is what 2046 represents).

    Other Comments

    The film reminded me of the old Hollywood films that really made the stars really look good. The film almost gets by with how good the stars look in the film. Well, that’s not completely accurate. The acting and dialogue are also crucial in the film. I thought Zhang Ziyi was particuarly excellent.

    I wonder what you guys think about the sorrow expressed by the characters. I could see some people complaining about this as it seems a bit maudlin, but most of the scenes worked well for me. I felt for the characters–their sense of pain of lost or unrequited love.

    I liked the poetic layering in the film–e.g., the way the sci-fi stories represent Chow’s feelings.

  4. Arlyn

    I re-watched In the Mood for Love after 2046 and couldn’t comprehend how Tony Leung could portray the different personalities of Chow concurrently (since finding out that both movies started filming in the same year).

    From Chow who was so restrained in In the Mood for Love to the Chow who used women as “time fillers” in 2046. Amazing performance.

    I need to think about the first part of your comment on what the film is about. I’m not sure if you covered them all.

    Second Su Li-zhen

    The other thing is that Chow realizes that it’s not just her past that comes between them, but his past–specifically his love for the first Su Li-zhen.

    I agree. Also, she may have a dark past but I believe it’s Chow’s love for the first Su Li-Zhen that gets in the way. And I think the second Su Li-zhen senses this

    Wang Jin-Wen

    First, I’m wondering if Chow starts falling for her. I think he does, but I don’t think he really does love her because he’s still in love with Su Li-zhen.

    I think he does actually fall in love with her. He tries harder with her than with any of the other women and even mentions that this is the happiest he’s been. This is when he admits that the main character that he’s writing about in 2047 is actually him wanting the android Wang Jin-Wen.

    Bai Ling

    Just to clarify, she isn’t a prostitute. Yes? I thought the story of Chow and Bai Ling was longer than all the others. Why do you think that is?

    Chow mentions that after seeing Bai Ling for the last time, she still appeared in his stories. Why was this if he obviously didn’t love her?

    I think the story of the secret being whispered into a hole and the feelings that creep up when least expected is mentioned in all three films. Yes?

    Comments on the women

    The casting was perfect. All of these women were stunning in their performances. Could each have played each other’s characters? Yes, I could see that but each was perfect as their characters in 2046.

    Reid,

    You mentioned liked Zhang Ziyi. I was drawn to Carina Lau who played Lulu/Mimi. There was something about her that I didn’t expect to to like going all the way back to Days of Being Wild. Can’t quite figure it out yet but her performance was strong. They all were.

  5. Reid

    From Chow who was so restrained in In the Mood for Love to the Chow who used women as “time fillers” in 2046. Amazing performance.

    I like how we see too dramatically different sides of this character (although he definitely retains some of the nice guy quality–which he is really effective at–in 2046).

    Having said that, a part of me wishes the film spent a little more time showing this transition. In 2046, I believe Chow just says in passing that he quickly got into the fast-paced lifestyle. This doesn’t ruin the film, but, a part of me wishes the film established this change a little more.

    By the way, I might include Leung as Chow Mo Wan as one of my favorite characters.

    I need to think about the first part of your comment on what the film is about. I’m not sure if you covered them all.

    I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. My comment wasn’t meant to be exhausitive or definitive. (Maybe we could say the film is a person’s reflections on love–particularly the ways people are unhappy in love; and maybe even ways one avoid this. Remember Jin-wen eventually marries the Japanese guy, and Chow mentions that if you don’t take no for answer, you might be able to get what you want. Chow fails to do this in ItMfL.)

    And I think the second Su Li-zhen senses this

    Agreed.

    I think he does actually fall in love with her. He tries harder with her than with any of the other women and even mentions that this is the happiest he’s been. This is when he admits that the main character that he’s writing about in 2047 is actually him wanting the android Wang Jin-Wen.

    Right but consider the following:

    1. He’s the happiest he’s ever been, but is that because it reminds him so much of the time with Su Li zhen in the hotel room?

    2. He actually encourages and helps her go after the Japanese guy.

    3. In “2047,” Chow is the Japanese passenger. Well, that guy falls for the android, but he also tells the other android to go with him; he even tells the caretaker (played by Jin wen’s father) to leave with him. To me, that suggests that he’s just looking for someone to replace his true love. (I believe he’s on the train going to or “in” 2046. He wants to now leave 2046 and in doing so he “falls” for the android(s). It’s what Chow had attempted with Black Spider and even Jin Wen. Does that make sense?

    What makes the “2047 segment confusing is that the Japanese passenger is the surrogate for Chow, and yet that’s the person that the android (played by Jin-wen) actually loves–and he (the real Japanese guy) is the reason the android doesn’t respond to the passenger. Ugh. Are you following this, because I’m not sure I am? 🙂

    Just to clarify, she isn’t a prostitute. Yes? I thought the story of Chow and Bai Ling was longer than all the others. Why do you think that is?

    I read somewhere that she’s a dance partner or something to that effect. So she’s technically not a prostitute, but she probably does sleep with me for money (tips).

    As for the length of their relationship, here are some thoughts: First, I think the Leung and Zhang are really good together. In my opinion, they’re the best scenes in the film (most reminiscent of classic Hollywood films). Second, it really brings to life how much Chow has changed. He’s a cad in many ways (and I’ve heard people complain about the character in this way), but I see him doing this because his heart was broken by Su Li zhen. (Actually, if you don’t agree with this, I’d like to hear that because I’m not sure the film establishes this point very well, and I might be reading too much into the film.) Third, we get to see the pain of being in love with someone who still loves someone else. When Chow tells Bai that he’s learned that there’s one thing he can never lend out, that’s a devasting scene. (Loved it).

    Chow mentions that after seeing Bai Ling for the last time, she still appeared in his stories. Why was this if he obviously didn’t love her?

    I think it was a casual remark. He basically just puts people he knows in the story. (Remember the hotel owner, Jin-wen’s father, is also in the story. Jin-wen’s bf is in the story as well.)

    I think the story of the secret being whispered into a hole and the feelings that creep up when least expected is mentioned in all three films. Yes?

    No way! Really? I don’t remember this being in DoBW. Now, I want to watch that film.

    The casting was perfect. All of these women were stunning in their performances. Could each have played each other’s characters? Yes, I could see that but each was perfect as their characters in 2046.

    Li and Lau didn’t really impact me that much, although I might change my mind about Lau if I watch DoBW again (I don’t really remember it very well.)
    If you ever figure out what made Lau’s performance work for you, I’d be interested in hearing it.

  6. Arlyn

    I could be wrong about those aspects of the story going all the way back to Days. I’m certain of them being in In the Mood:

    Character whispers his/her secret into a hole
    Character admits that his/her feelings have crept up when least expected

    After you re-watch Days you’ll see what I mean about Lau. She is a fine actor in range. Not quite Judi Dench. Subtle but powerful in acting ability.

    Btw, I still find it really really odd to analyze a film like this. By odd, I mean you can’t tell but I’m squirming after I read what I’ve written. You may find it natural to dissect a film but I’m not a coroner like some of you are 🙂 It’s definitely challenging but I’m kinda enjoying it. Like with Kamome Diner, I wanted to present that as food in film but then I read your write-up and liked that take on it too.

    More on 2046 later.

  7. Reid

    The hole in the tree is definitely in ItMfL. (Chow mentions this to his friend, Ping; and the film ends with Chow whispering into a rock wall in a temple.)

    After you re-watch Days you’ll see what I mean about Lau. She is a fine actor in range.

    I recall her being solid in Days, but I didn’t think her performance was outstanding in 2046. (To be fair, she doesn’t have much screen time.)

    It’s definitely challenging but I’m kinda enjoying it.

    That’s good to hear. (And, yeah, I can’t tell that you feel really odd about analyzing the film. For what it’s worth, I plan to write more about my thoughts of analyzing a film.)

    More on 2046 later.

    Cool.

  8. Arlyn

    I read somewhere that she’s a dance partner or something to that effect. So she’s technically not a prostitute, but she probably does sleep with me for money (tips).

    Not that your comment is chauvinistic in any way but I disagree. I didn’t see her as a prostitute.

  9. Reid

    To be clear, I’m not saying she’s a prostitute. Honestly, I don’t know. But you’ve heard of hostesses at Korean or Japanese bars, right? From what I understand, transactions of a sexual nature occur from these interactions–in a way that seems closer to prostitution than just picking up someone in a bar. But does it matter whether she’s a prostitute or not? I don’t think her background matters so much. She could be church organist or librarian and it wouldn’t make much of a difference in the film.

  10. Arlyn

    I was actually referring to your comment about you dropping cash and that she’d sleep with you. What was it exactly? Was it the way she dressed? The way she looked?

    Sure chauvinism takes different levels but how far are we going with levels? What country are we going to refer to next?

    I mentioned before that I felt uncomfortable dissecting films. I don’t look at film reviews as an autopsy. Layer by layer like this?

    FWIW, of course background matters. How many time periods are we discussing in this trilogy? To clarify, the character is in the 1960’s and, no, I didn’t see her as a bar hostess either.

  11. Reid

    I was actually referring to your comment about you dropping cash and that she’d sleep with you. What was it exactly? Was it the way she dressed? The way she looked?

    I wondered where you got these remarks from and checked my previous posts and was horrified (I mean horrified) to find that I wrote this: “…So she’s technically not a prostitute, but she probably does sleep with me for money (tips).” Oh my goodness! I have no idea where the “with me” came from. (I almost feel like Mitchell is playing a joke on my or something.) I am utterly embarrassed and my only explanation is that it was a Freudian slip. Oh dear.

    Anyway, I don’t know if it was in an interview (on the dvd with the actors and Wong) or somewhere else that I read that she was a dance hostess or something like that. Plus, she seems to freely have men with her. (I’m assuming that the culture and society of 60s Hong Kong isn’t so free-swinging as it was in America at the same time.)

    Why do you think her background–e.g., being a prostitute, dance-partner, or whatever–is significant? (Genuine question.)

  12. Arlyn

    It’s an observation that I had on reading some reviews that she was the prostitute while he was also bringing women home. Wong Kar Wai has said that she was a dancer in a dance hall and not a prostitute. She was paid to keep men company in the dance hall. Both Chow and Bai Ling were paying each other and I thought it to be a game between the two of them.

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