This is the new film by Kar Wai Wong and is showing in pretty limited engagements here, there, and around. It’s not the kind of film that Americans are used to and for that above all else, it is a welcome change.
I went in to see it over the weekend, not really knowing what to expect other than something of a sequel to “In the Mood for Love” which was a beautiful film and for the camera work to be amazing. Christopher Doyle, who did the Love cinematography also did “Hero” and his work is nothing short of spectacular. On both of these two points, the film was what I expected (although Doyle tries some different tricks than past films), but it diverted quite a bit from anything else I thought I was going to get. For instance, I thought it was going to be more sci-fi and that is obviously what the previews want you to think, but such is not the case. For the most part, it takes place in Hong Kong and Singapore in the 1960’s. 2046, the year or place is a spot for escape. Somewhere else that isn’t here and isn’t what the protagonist has to deal with in real life, although this place is something of therapy for him.
Overall and after much thought, I have to say that I really liked the film. As to whether I think it’s better than Mood for Love, that’s a hard thing to say, since these are two very different films. The pacing is similar, but the approach changes greatly. I think that Love may have been a little more cohesive and well-played than 2046, but it is still a wonderful, lovely, yet unconventional film.
It’s this last point that is going to be hard for some people. For, as Jenya and I walked out of the Landmark Embarcadero Theater where it is playing, this woman (whom neither of us knew) accosted Jenya and asked her flat out, “Did that make any sense to you? I mean, it’s over and I just don’t get it. What went on? What was the point?” Her questions were very much to the point, direct, and while seeming somewhat ridiculous, were also somewhat poignant. She hadn’t seen “In the Mood for Love” and so this style of film making (Love Noir as the critics have been dubbing it) is a tough thing to take. If things like “The Island” or “The Fast and the Furious” are what you really like, then this isn’t going to hold water with you. The pace is slow and deliberate, but it is good. It takes time to get used to it. Much the same as you need to be hopped up on Coke and goofballs to enjoy an MTV-esque action movie these days, you need to go the opposite direction and slow down to understand the film.
For this woman, she will likely come to the same conclusion that I did after thinking about Mood for Love for a couple of days after seeing it, which is to say that I truly loved the film. I hope that our 10 minute conversation with her helped to some degree. But, that’s the way it is with anything good I’ve found. If you get something right away, you can toss it out of your system like sugar you’ve had for dessert. It doesn’t stick with you in good ways. Film and music are just like food this way. Everything I like has had to ruminate. In truth, I didn’t have to think about 2046 that long before wrapping it around myself, but it still required thought. You have to piece things together and it’s a great film because even if you tell the ending of the film, you don’t really give anything away. While not a hallmark of cinema, it’s very, very close and worth a viewing from anyone who appreciates the movies and can slow themselves down for two hours to watch it.