Wong Kar-Wai’s 2046 opens with a train-tracked world (imagine! A world of train journeys), in amber and rose lighting – a beauty infused with memory, desire and sadness (and in this it is much more successful than Solaris, a weird little film, so obsessively, unrelentingly grief-stricken). This one it is all about writers and stories and lovers and the cowritten project; all ‘through the unfathomable night’. Irresistible.
2046 turns on mis-meetings between two people. In one evocative scene near the beginning, Tony Leung bumps into a woman he knew in another guise – another time, another place. She does not remember him. He begins to describe to her how they knew each other and what they did together. As he talks, we see her face over his shoulder, and watch as her focus leaves the present. The camera slowly crawls to the right, into darkness; his voice and his presence fade out as she sadly returns to the past.
The failed interactions between people – the way that two people can meet and yet completely miss each other – haunt the film. One waits to be asked, whilst the other is waiting for an answer; one waits for another to appear, who never will. Shared experiences reverberate so differently for each individual. Painful or sweet – and of course it’s usually painful – that lost possibility is here almost inevitable. Asked to pick from a deck of cards, what is the outcome? One is almost always going to turn up something lower than the other. Especially if the pack is marked…One of the two people here are always already damaged by previous relationships, and too caught up in them to start anew. It is always already too late.
And yet the characters are not too old or too bitter to be resigned: it all still seems possible. Towards, apart, alongside – they keep moving. They still ask: will you leave here with me? Do you love me?
And of course there’s 2046 – the future – or what it really is: a screen for the shadows of our past to loom large on.
Ah! It’s all delightfully bleak as I write about it, but honestly the film is wonderful. The cinematography on its own is stunning and absorbing (excepting the lg logo); there's a extraordinarily deft touch in the combination of technology and feeling. and then there's tony leung (ah!).
I am a sucker for kar-wai’s films. And there are overt references here to previous works – maybe it's even part of a trilogy – characters, actors; that gentle removal of shoes; sentimental ties to numbers; comings and goings, airhostesses [or, here, train attendants]), asia in the 1960s, the locales, the chungsams, the radio music, the cards, the noodles, the rain, the night.
It would have been great at the cinema, but it was nice half an hour after it finished to turn it on again to place x and work out where y came in to the whole thing.