| 2046





Wong Kar-wai

China, 2004


Review by Matt Bailey

Posted on 24 November 2004

Source Guangdong FACE DVD

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There is a really good 90-minute film to be fished out of the 130-minute running time of 2046. I suspect promises made to the several prominent actors and pop stars who appear in the film (and their respective managers and agents) are what kept Wong Kar-Wai from releasing the film he clearly could have (and should have). Instead of relying on the funding of vain gangsters for his films as he did in the past, Wong is now subject to the same industry bloat and excess as filmmakers in Hollywood, birthplace of the package deal. Wong has always loved to pack his films with too much story, too much detail, and too many actors. Up until the relative minimalism of In the Mood for Love it was not uncommon for Wong to run out of time and money before he got around to running out of narrative: an entire segment of story intended for Chungking Express was cut and became the basis for the follow-up, Fallen Angels.

Much disappointment followed upon the first screenings and viewings of 2046, primarily because the film was such a long time in coming. Rumors of its impending production began circulating nearly a decade ago and sets for the film sat unused for years. Actors were cast and then dropped. A legend sprang up that Wong had actually filmed a great deal of footage and then destroyed it. A victim of its own hype and protracted production, there eventually came a time when there was no conceivable way for the film to be made and released and to be considered successful. Its predecessor, In the Mood for Love was Wong’s most successful and most lauded film. 2046 was bound to frustrate.

Putting perhaps unrealistic expectations aside for a moment, 2046 is actually very much the film that would likely have followed upon the heels of In the Mood for Love. Despite the futuristic-sounding title, 2046 is as much a film about the past as Wong’s previous and is, in fact, something of a sequel. It is also a summation of Wong’s work up to this point. The themes of lost and found love and the repetition of moments of chance from his breakthrough films Chungking Express and Fallen Angels are present, the lazy atmosphere from earlier films permeates the air of the tenant hotel where room 2046 is to be found, and even the voice of Nat King Cole, such a presence in In the Mood for Love, makes an appearance. Some have found this kind of career self-review to exhibit creative exhaustion on the part of Wong, a criticism that he is now just turning out yet another “film by Wong Kar-Wai.” This may be the case; whatever film comes next will surely decide whether Wong will be inducted into the pantheon of great filmmakers or if he is destined to be remembered as a one-hit wonder.

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