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July 18, 2005


Wong Kar-Wai - 2004
Mei Ah Region 0 DVD

Rumor has it that Wong's newest film, 2046, is scheduled for a U.S. release next month. No reason is given for why it's taking so long to be shown here. Maybe there's a quota on Chinese films shown within a given period. Additionally, here in Miami Beach, the showing of art and independent films is somewhat inconsistent, with many films playing a quick week long engagement. In any case, I decided to take advantage of Netflix already carrying the Hong Kong DVD.

The film is a loose sequel to In the Mood for Love. What is interesting about the Criterion DVD of the older film is that the several of the deleted scenes were of Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung consumating their relationship. Had those scenes been included in the final version of In the Mood for Love, the dynamics of the relationship would have been totally different. That relationship was platonic, as opposed to the relationship of their characters' spouses. The narrative of 2046 is initiated by Tony Leung's memory of Maggie Cheung.

Leung continues with the character of Chow. No longer a journalist, Chow writes a column for a newspaper. He also writes a science fiction erotic serial. 2046 is both the room number he has had a brief encounter in, and the year people travel to in order to regain lost memories. 2046 also refers to the year that the handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese is completed.

Unlike the cautious relationship Leung had with Maggie Cheung, much of the new film is of the sexual and mercenary relationship with Zhang Ziyi. Leung also acts as a go-between for a young Hong Kong woman and her Japanese suitor. Finally Leung encounters Gong Li, a gambler with the same name, Su Li Zhen, as Maggie Cheung's character. Most of the events take place during several Christmas eves, beginning with 1966, a time Leung notes when people seem to need each other more. The characters speak to each other in their native language or dialect - for example the Cantonese Leung has dialogue with the Mandarin speaking Gong. Perhaps we are to view the film as an allegory of Hong Kong's place in pan-Asia, especially as most of the action takes place at the Oriental Hotel.

Wong uses scope wide screen for the first time. Shots are partially blocked by walls, doors and windows. While many of the visual elements are as elliptical as in earlier films like Fallen Angels, the main portion of the narrative is easier to follow. Even if the historical references are lost on viewers, one cannot help but be awed by the cinematography, again primarily the work of longtime Wong collaborator Christopher Doyle. In keeping with spirit of erotic longing in In the Mood for Love, 2046 is punctuated with shots of Gong Li seen from her waist to hips, in a black form fitting dress with a black glove. Wong is said to be working on a film titled Lady from Shanghai with Nicole Kidman. Any relationship to the Orson Welles film of the same title remains unknown. One thinks that given his several films of romantic longing, that one can easily use the title "Cherchez la femme".

Posted by peter at July 18, 2005 01:33 PM