Wong Kar Wai, 2046
A room, a time, a place and a novel, 2046
is a completely sufficient and enclosed cinematic world. Stylistically separate but twinned with In the Mood for Love
, it broadens the relational scope of the lead(s) and deepens the narrative topography of (a) love in 60s Asia.
I love the international (or intra-Asian slash migratory) approach of a story blended with a Western-looking culture and sexuality. A film fused with the romance of life. At times magically composed and shot, Wai's cinematic language is intensely created and affective and personal and image-driven. He seems to make the same (if not a thematically similar) film again, varying only his techniques and the relational settings in a curious mix of Murakami and organic subjectivism. The dramatic-realistic Tarkovsky perhaps? I saw Chungking Express
about a week or two previously, and it's kind of shaped the way I look at Wai's oeuvre-contour. Particularly his approach to meetings and love's early petals. He's very much the horticulturalist of Asian cinema, dedicated to the careful cultivation of fine and dramatic cinematic flora. Beautiful to look at and wander through, wanting to be read symbolically.
Technical-trope-wise: A bold use of the production company logo as narrative bookends. A strong sense of space and enclosure slash privacy given by the deliberate use of obscuration in the dialogues: when one character speaks, the other (or even the lead) is obscured by a panel or wall or fitting, forcing a lot of the dramatic action onto a third of the screen. It's an unexpectedly intimate effect. Further deepened by what feels like a very naturally-lit film with alternate camera speeds, and an execution mostly between close-up and mid shot. Wai is one of the best directors of interiors, period. I can’t remember any major establishing exteriors in 2046
Tony Leung and Gong Li are masters of nuance and subtlety, the latter probably more so, every bitten lip a treasure of suggestion on the big screen. Leung’s character seems to have become much more chauvinistic and easy, less a writer in love. Emphasis now falls on the failed love of the women. And of course all their unspoken secrets, their generosities and demands. The emotional terrain of the film is further typified by what's left out of it in the generically-Hollywood sense: guilt, remorse and happy endings. It makes of true love a complex memory, something only approached in real experience and then under constrained circumstances, but best left to ponder over later or in another place (distanced within), leaving one smarting and hardened and closed to other loves or the love at hand. And hence making excellent philanderers of us all. With rent owing and drunk girls in hand. It's still Tony's film.
The future story lacks pathos and counterpoint, its script-gears not fully meshing (in a commentary or metaphorical sense) with the 60s story (in fact the whole secret-hole thing becomes a bit trying). Which is a shame because it stretches the ultimate believability and humane reality of the latter. It (the future story) seems to represent an emotionally barren but hypermobile state of affairs without any angst or ennui (especially in that French way) (or even a technophobic slash cybernetic paranoia) (or strong contrast) which might've turned this into a truly great arthouse/artistic film, if only in a causal/metaphorical sense — fleshing out the emotional-consequence landscape between the many temporal and subjective layers of the film. But when the mechanics of filmmaking are so beautiful you can almost feel Wai's creative idea-plant grow, you don’t really care.
Just a little too long and occasionally ill-paced with respect to music, and possibly not as great and thorough as Mood
, it's still pure cinema. Pure style and vision in execution, Wai's art and technique are flawlessly tuned and fused (sounds great, eh? Doesn't really say much. See it yourselves).