The romantic tale 2046 (in Cantonese, Japanese, and Mandarin with English subtitles) by Wong Kar-Wai is intoxicating like his In the Mood for Love, but a little too mystifying when it comes to emotions and the subconscious.
The images in this exquisite production are something to behold at times, especially from the burnished lensing of Australian-born Christopher Doyle (Hero).
Essentially, 2046 is a sequel to In the Mood for Love which focused on the relationship between Chow (Tony Leung), a 1960's Hong Kong writer and serial womanizer, and a married woman (Maggie Cheung). There's a passion into how tenuous and breathtaking romance can be in its purest form.
The title carries a dual meaning from Chow's vivid science-fiction setting where vast rail networks light up cityscapes and his hotel room number where that former extramarital affair occurred.
We see Chow's varying trysts as true love seems elusive. There is the vamp (Carina Lau), a saucy call girl in the room next door (Ziyi Zhang of House of Flying Daggers), as well a posh mysterious gambling woman (Gong Li) and the landlord's smitten daughter (Faye Wong).
One has to give in to Chow's unique, incredible imagination of the future and its symbiosis to love being beyond our grasp. Chow becomes the narrator, and with Wong's detailed work with his crew on lighting, design, and costumes, besides the operatic, instrumentally stark music, 2046 tweaks quite comfortably into film noir territory.
A motif of lost memories with unrequited, unexpected love is like gliding rain on a track, a metaphor of Chow's long train ride into the future, one that has its preordained course. There's a substantial superimposition that works from Chow's seedy novellas in shifting time elements as we know it. The mental fragments that the viewer is urged to embrace can be thoughtful and heartbreaking. And the hopefulness expressed by Leung who tries to get the timing of really getting romance right opposite the women, especially wrenchingly beacon in Ms. Zhang's femme fatale makes this layered journey a complex one that ultimately is worth treasuring.