• Four years after In the Mood for Love, WKW’s follow-up is the third and (so far) final film in the unofficial Love trilogy (Days of Being Wild from 1990 being the first) featuring Tony Leung as Chow Mo-Wan and Maggie Cheung (here only as a cutaway memory really) as Su Li-zhen.
  • 2046 falls into the category of a masterpiece that has the burden of following one of the great films of all-time. This is WKW’s Magnificent Ambersons or his The Master– an utterly remarkable film- as long as someone was not coming in expecting Citizen Kane, There Will Be Blood (or In the Mood for Love of course).
  • The story is more opaque than most of WKW’s films, with the added layer of Chow Mo-Wan writing science fiction – and 2046 (on top of the political meaning-the 50-year period the Chinese Government promised to let Hong Kong remain as it is) having two meanings: the hotel room number and the year of the setting of the surrealistic science fiction world within the film.

The narrative ducks back and forth between the late 1960s and 2046 segments (Faye Won and Carina Lau play androids—Carina Lau is also Lulu). As with all of WKW’s works, the film is more about mood than plot– it is about “recapturing memories” (as only a melancholic Tony Leung can say and embody).

An inspired shot, reverse shot, of Carina Lau with the red curtains blocking 60% of the screen (WKW uses the curtains instead of the back of Leung’s head)- a variation (pictured here) on this will be repeated later with a drunk Bai Ling (Ziyi Zhang) but WKW uses green instead of red in the second instance.

These shots are worthy of Antonioni- which is fitting given the inevitable comparisons involving ennui.

  • Faye Wong’s story is largely in this sort of jade color. Gong Li’s segment (the last one) is black. At the 24-minute mark the operatic soundtrack (the cue for Faye Wong’s character) accompanies an immaculate shot, Wong depressingly takes a slow motion drag of her cigarette in her emerald-soaked room.
  • The full use of the frame in so many compositions
  • As far the production team goes- Christopher Doyle is back as cinematographer (in his last collaboration to date with WKW) and William Chang (not half as well known as Doyle and he should be) does not only the sublime production design—but the costume work (1960s chic and eye-popping wallpaper/color) as well- just as he did for In the Mood for Love.

The Connie Francis music (a beautiful curation) accompanies Ziyi Zhang’s character- including her entrance in the mirror (wearing one of William Chang’s show stopping dresses).

WKW is always the formal master- not only pairing the actresses with music (no song is played just once), but to specific settings (the pay phone that is obstructed) like the sign for the Oriental Hotel (used again and again—also—always partially–never in full view).

these are memories, years have gone by…

…each woman (portrayed by some of the best actresses in the world) in Chow Mo-Wan’s sphere gets her time


  • It does feel a bit messier (or at least more extraneous) formally than WKW’s 2000 masterpiece- the day/date titles and the black and white photographed segments are introduced rather late in the film and do not feel set up correctly—but perhaps another viewing will help here.

The interiors are just as strong as WKW’s best work —the perforated glass, the mirrors, the color-drenched hallways. The Nat King Cole Christmas song is played again and again—and WKW’s work with color is as strong here as anything he has done- lush greens and reds- tied to the song.

  • A standout sequence (in a 129-minute filled with them) is a scene where WKW utilizes these sliding dissolves on top of each other in one particular Christmas where Tony’s character dines with Faye Wong’s.
  • WKW’s trademark step processing is used in 2046– the contrasting speeds in the foreground and background for one flashback in 1969 as Tony is isolated in slow motion with everything else at the Casino sped up around him.
  • The cast is comprised of a who’s who of the best actors from Hong Kong and China during this era. Tony Leung (the center of it all here) has the greatest achievement in 2046. He is followed by Ziyi Zhang, Faye Wong in that order— Gong Li is next, but her segment is short and her achievement not on the same level—and as mentioned previously the great Maggie Cheung is used sparingly.
  • WKW ends with the repetition of the opening lines via Tony Leung’s voiceover. This is an urban sadness, smoking, drinking, loneliness, lost love, memories—auteur cinema.
  • A Masterpiece