With Regret – 2046

Now this film is a conundrum. Regular readers will know I have adored at least three of Wong Kar Wai’s films, with 2 of them probably being in my top 10 ever (“Chungking Express” and “In The Mood For Love” – With “Fallen Angels” knocking on the door). By rights I should love this film also – it is a continuation of both “In The Mood For Love” and “Days of Being Wild” (which I have on DVD, just not seen yet). Yet, oddly and regretfully, this one did not click for me.

2046” continues the story of Tony Leung’s Chow Mo-wan from “In The Mood For Love”. His character is much changed, throwing himself into a series of affairs and relationships with a variety of women. We follow him in a somewhat non-linear format, interspersed with elements from a science-fiction novel he has written, giving us further insight into his relationships with people, particularly women.

Once again teamed with Christopher Doyle, the film looks amazing, from the somewhat fading hotel rooms, to the lurid nightclubs, to the stark future. The usual tricks are there – unusual camera placement, a voyeuristic feel and musically interesting. But what it lacks, despite trying oh so hard – is emotion. Interestingly, the film is littered with some fantastic lines, but I rarely felt people were really talking to each other, it felt false and flat, as if people were just talking meaningfully, rather than from their souls.

I think my disappointment is mostly aimed at Leung’s character – it just does not feel like the same, honorable man we left at the end of “In The Mood For Love”. He has become seedy, a manipulator of women, only able to find physical pleasure without the emotional satisfaction. Could the loss of your “one true love™” really drive you this low? Only occasionally does the character I so identified with peek through – usually in his chaste interactions with Faye Wong’s character.

Indeed, most of the female parts are played excellently – Zhang Ziyi is actually quite marvelous as Bai Ling, a Nightclub Hostess/Call girl who tries and fails to find love with Leung. Wong is equally delightful, playing a character quite different than her standout role in “Chungking Express”.

I cared even less for the science-fiction elements. They took the audience out of the story, acted almost as exposition for what is clearly going on in the real world – but not with any great insight, enough is shown in 1960’s Hong King to not need this further exploration.

In Art, an Artist (Painter, Sculptor, or Novelist) may use the same ideas and themes on a variety of pieces – even though we may only be familiar with one part of that work. “2046” is a bit like this – it re-models and re-explores characters, themes and actors from his previous works – maybe with the intention of just exploring something more deeply, maybe with the idea of discovering something new. Sadly, something is lost, and this movie fails to entertain or engage me as the previous works did so well.

At the end of the day, there IS a fair bit to enjoy here. But the film is overlong, boring and ultimately unnecessary. This is a film that for all sorts of reasons took years to make and release – I wonder if he is a filmmaker whose best work is actually done when time pressure makes him achieve his finest work?

And that just leaves it with a Mildly Recommended.
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