Wong Kar-Wai (Chungking Express, In the Mood For Love) is one of the most revered directors in the world. And his latest feature, the lush and sensuous 2046, gives ample evidence of his distinctively cinematic gifts.
While its rapturously evocative imagery is best experienced in a theater, the film’s year-end release on DVD does offer an extensive range of extras which can assist viewers in sorting through the mysteries of Wong’s exotically intriguing and convoluted visions.
Those mysteries are indicated in part by the multiple applications of the film’s title. The number “2046” refers to a year in the 21st century, and it’s the title of a futuristic time-travel fantasy being written by the film’s main character, a journalist and self-styled “ladies’ man” named Chow (Tony Leung). But perhaps most significant of all, it is the number of a hotel room whose various female occupants are centers of Chow’s obsessively romantic musings.
Wong gives lyric and dramatic form to those musings via a deliciously seductive stream of images and episodes drawn from Chow’s memories and autobiographical reflections, from his novel-in-progress, to his encounters with the women of room 2046. And the filmmaker’s characteristic style—a dazzling blend of enchantingly moody cinematography, gracefully intricate editing and suavely ritualistic music tracks—makes all this compelling, and even scintillating, to such an extent that the film’s disregard for conventional storytelling may remain beside the point for the genuinely engaged viewer.
2046 is, after all, partly an enthralling set of riffs on the whole history of cinematic love stories, and a good case for the film could be made solely on the basis of its superbly attractive cast.