A review of “2046” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for nudity, language, and adult situations

Run Time: 2 hours, 7 minutes. In Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese with English subtitles

 

 

Director Wong Kar Wai is still in the mood for love in this abstract valentine to contemporary affairs of the heart.

A time-traveling romance writer (Tony Leung as Chow Mo Wan) wends a mysterious path from 2046 to the good old days of 1966 where life is simple and sweet.  Chow immerses himself in wine, women and song with reserved aplomb, far more at ease in his fictional world than his reality.

Heart and heartbreak are part and parcel of Chow’s detached existence.  Jealousy and emotion rear their ugly little heads when Chow takes up with fellow hotel-dweller Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi), a spirited party girl whose flighty flirtations dissolve into pain and frustration while Chow takes cover behind diffident barriers.

In typical Wong fashion there is little plot and much theoretical posturing. Abstraction pushed to the point of bewilderment. Thematic core is a slow and poignant aura of seduction; an oblique ode to the enduring intrigues of unrequited love. 

Cast is an all-star lineup of Asian talent ranging from Maggie Cheung to Zhang to the inimitable Gong Li.  Leung is charismatic to a fault; smooth and sinuous and exuding a powerful sexuality.  He and Zhang make beautiful music together, each scene a poem of memory and tears set against stunning backdrops of silky color. In a manner all its own “2046” is flawed but fabulous.