Year of release: 2004
2046 was almost four years in the making. Its' production time became so long that it was even made into a joke in movies like Golden Chicken 2. However, the long time seems to have been worth it -- 2046 is one of Wong Kar-Wai's best films to date. In a year that was marked by an decidely average output from everywhere in the world, 2046 stands out and is, in my opinion, the best film of 2004.
2046 is a sequel to 2000's In the Mood for Love and continues the story of Chan Wo Man (Tony Leung Chui-Wai), who is heartbroken after not being able to be with his true love Su Li Zhen (Maggie Cheung). Chan moves into a hotel after seeing the number on one of the rooms (2046), and spends his time romancing various women while writing a science-fiction story. After a time, he concentrates his time on a prositiute (Zhang Ziyi) staying in the room next to his and the daughter (Faye Wong) of his landlord. As Chan starts developing real feelings from the women in his life once again, they give him inspiration, and he puts them (and himself) into his story. However, Chan's past never allows him to truly let his guard down and fully let the women he loves into his heart.
Like Wong Kar-Wai's other work, 2046 concentrates itself on the feelings of loneliness people carry with them, even when they are surrounded by people. Though Chan is with beautiful women who openly care for him, he cannot commit to them. It is through Tony Leung's wonderful performance that Chan Wo Man becomes something other than a character in a movie -- he becomes a real person. As an audience, we might want him to be with one woman, but it is through the performance that we know this can never be. Even though the ending is depressing, in this case, that is the only way it could be. Chan pouring his heart out and giving a warm embrace to these women would not fit. It might not be the way we as an audience would like things to happen, but, as in life, some things in film don't work out the way we imagine they should.
As regular readers of this site will know, I'm not much for "deep" movies. Hell, I'm a guy who used to run a Wong Jing tribute site. But there are some times when a movie qualifies as a work of art, and 2046 is one of them. It's one of those rare films that lingers with you long after it has finished. Even though it takes place in Hong Kong in the 1960's (and in some sort of alternate future), the themes here will resonate with just about anyone who has ever felt some sort of love in their life and then had to give it away.
The fact that 2046 is simply gorgeous doesn't hurt, either. Christopher Doyle's mad genius is once again in full effect, and, as always, the soundtrack compliments the film perfectly; as with "California Dreamin'" in Chungking Express, the use of "White Christmas" here gives the song a whole new meaning -- what is usually regarded as a joyful yuletide tune becomes a melancholy allegory for Chan's life. To sum up, 2046 is a fairly simple film on the surface, but unlike most every other movie coming out nowadays, there's actually some depth to it. If you consider yourself a film lover in any way, you owe it to yourself to at see 2046 at least once in your lifetime.