best film: 2046 from WKW
- 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.
- 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).
- 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 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 transcendent 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).
- 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 (back again!) 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.
- 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.
most underrated: Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, Yimou Zhang’s House of Flying Daggers and Pedro Almodovar’s Bad Education should all be on the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They top 1000 consensus list by now. However, they at least have respectable spots on the 21st century TSPDT list. This makes Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement the most underrated film of 2004– as it, unbelievably, cannot find a spot on the top 1000 for the 21st century.
most overrated: Tropical Malady from Apichatpong Weerasethakul is ranked in the TSPDT top 250 (#221 right now to be exact) which is clear masterpiece territory. This makes it the #2 film of 2004. Sideways would be #4 and The Intruder from Claire Denis would be #6 and unfortunately none of these three have much of a claim to a spot in the top 10 of the year.
gems I want to spotlight: It is Under the Skin in 2013 that finally brought some recognition to Jonathan Glazer, but I am not yet certain that 2004’s Birth is not just as good (or nearly). It has its adamant defenders- but it was widely dismissed in 2004. Mysterious Skin (if you can stomach some of the subject matter) is inventively crafted cinema. Lastly, Jonathan Demme’s The Manchurian Candidate may not quite live up to the 1962 original, but Demme’s penchant for close-ups makes this auteur cinema still and who can argue with Denzel and Meryl Streep in the leads?
trends and notables:
- 2046 and WKW feels like not only the best film- but the cinematic story of the year coming from one of the great recent artists the medium has produced. 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).
- Shrek 2, Spider Man 2 dominate the box office. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is a far bigger talking point film though in 2004.
- Charlie Kaufman’s run from 1999-2004 now over a period of six years needs to be recognized. The first two were with Spike Jonze (who would eventually prove himself without Kaufman), but 2004’s masterpiece is directed by Michel Gondry. Gondry’s utter lack of impressive resume outside of this collaboration with Kaufman helps bolster the case for this writer to be heralded as the genius (recognizing this is a collaborative art form of course).
- With All About My Mother (1999), Talk to Her (2002) and Bad Education (2004)- this is the best period of work from the great Pedro Almodovar as well.
- 2004 marks the first archiveable films for Paweł Pawlikowski (My Summer of Love) and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead)
- Michael Mann’s Collateral may actually be the biggest trend notable here in 2004 with Mann pushing digital. He is front and center there and way ahead of many. . If you are going to make a push for a new technology, this is a great way to back it up.
- Ziyi Zhang is everywhere coming off of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000 including two 2004 films (2046 and House of Flying Daggers). Same for Naomi Watts (three films- I Heart Huckabees, The Assassination of Richard Nixon, We Don’t Live Here Anymore), Jude Law (three films- The Aviator, I Heart Huckabees, Closer) and Mark Ruffalo (Collateral, Eternal Sunshine and We Don’t Live Here Hnymore). All of these actors are really capitalizing on success in 1999/2000/2001.
- This year also marks the archiveable debut of one of the all-time greats in Marion Cotillard. She gets her start in the archives in A Very Long Engagement.
best performance male: Tony Leung from 2046 probably edges out Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator for the top slot in 2004 but there is both quality at the top with these two and solid depth in this category this year. As with all of WKW’s works, 2046 is more about mood than plot– it is about “recapturing memories” as only a melancholic Tony Leung can say and embody. DiCaprio’s studied Texan vibrato voice is inspired. If you look back over his career this is the film/year where he took a major leap forward. Jim Carrey and Ethan Hawke in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Before Sunset are not far off pace as far as the best work is concerned in 2004. Tarantino loves to resurrect his cinema heroes as he shows off once again with David Carradine‘s work in Kill Bill Vol. 2. Bill is big character and Carradine provides plenty of screen presence- and let us not forget about his fabulous superman monologue. Gael Garcia Bernal‘s string of quality work continues in 2004 with Almodovar’s Bad Education. This is his second mention already in the decade (Y tu mamá también in 2001) and that’s omitting his part in Amores Perros in 2000. In Bad Education there is a little Russian nesting doll story within a story within a story going on and Gael Garcia Bernal warrants appreciation for playing variations on a character in all three threads. Lastly here in 2004 both Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood deserve mention for their work in Million Dollar Baby.
best performance female: Five total mentions in 2004 for this category and the first mention could actually go to any of the top four actors. Kate Winslet is a ball on fire in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Carrey is the steady center of the film (feels odd writing that- haha) but Winslet is who you cannot keep your eyes off of. Julie Delpy (Before Sunset) and Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby) do the best work of their career in 2004. Ziyi Zhang would be here just for her work in 2046– but when you add House of Flying Daggers on top of that she may have as good a case as any to the top slot in 2004. The final mention is Cate Blanchett for her work in The Aviator. Her Katharine Hepburn performance goes beyond mimicry. Blanchett is wonderful- it does take a minute to adjust to her quirkiness– she (as Katharine Hepburn) and Leo’s Hughes are so idiosyncratic (he is a multi-tasking dynamo, cannot hear, a germaphobe) and big – great characters—but she goes toe to toe with him and they have a great intimate scene talking about how they are not like everyone else
- Kill Bill: Vol. 2
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Million Dollar Baby
- Before Sunset
- The Aviator
- Bad Education
- A Very Long Engagement
- House of Flying Daggers
- Vera Drake
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|2046 – WKW||MP|
|3-Iron- Ki-duk Kim||R|
|A Very Long Engagement – Jeunet||MS|
|Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy – McKay||R|
|Bad Education – Almodovar||MS|
|Before Sunset- Linklater||MS/MP|
|Breaking News – To||R/HR|
|Closer – M. Nichols||R/HR|
|Collateral – M. Mann||R/HR|
|Down To the Bone- Granik||HR|
|Downfall – Hirschbiegel||R/HR|
|Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind- Gondry||MP|
|Finding Neverland- Forster||R|
|Garden State- Braff||R|
|Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Cuaron||R|
|Head-on – Akin||R|
|Howl’s Moving Castle- Miyazaki||R|
|I Heart Huckabees- D. Russell||R|
|Kill Bill: Vol. 2– Tarantino||MP|
|Kings & Queen- Desplechin||R|
|Mean Creek – Estes||R|
|Million Dollar Baby- Eastwood||MP|
|My Summer of Love– Pawlikowski||R|
|Mysterious Skin- Araki||R|
|Nobody Knows- Koreda|
|Shaun of the Dead – E. Wright||R/HR|
|Sideways – Payne||R/HR|
|The Assassination of Richard Nixon- S. Penn||R|
|The Aviator – Scorsese, DiCaprio||MS|
|The Bourne Supremacy – Greengrass|
|The Door in the Floor- T. Williams||R|
|The Holy Girl – Martel||R/HR|
|House of Flying Daggers- Yimou Zhang||MS|
|The Incredibles -Bird||HR|
|The Intruder- Denis||R|
|The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou– W. Anderson||R/HR|
|The Manchurian Candidate- Demme||R|
|The Motorcycle Diaries- Salles|
|The Sea Inside- Amenábar||R|
|The Woodsman- Kassell||R|
|The World – Zhangke Jia||HR|
|Tropical Malady – Weerasethakul||HR|
|Undertow – Gordon Green||R|
|Vera Drake – Leigh||HR|
|We Don’t Live Here Anymore – Curran||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-See- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
Hi.. Surely, Tom Cruise’s tour-de-force in Collateral deserves a mention in the acting section?
Hi Drake. What are some entertaining, emotional but also artistic movies you would recommend. It can be in any genre. Something like the incredibles. A movies that’s both artistic, entertaining and also emotional (any genre would do- comedy, romance, action or anything really).
Hi buddy, it is a difficult question, what do you mean emotional? what makes you cry? I have no idea, here are some (it is debatable about emotional)
-Mad Max Fury Road
-Raiders of the lost ark
-Cinema Paradiso (not artistic enough but very emotional)
-Schindler list (some cry with this)
-Grave of the Fireflies
what does emotional even mean? Shouldn’t emotional be anything that invokes strong emotions (of laughter or sadness)? I was crying from laughing in some like it hot. It’s one of only 2 movies to make me cry (kind of). By emotional, I meant a movie that gives you goosebumps or invokes strong feelings in you.
Here are my thoughts on your list:
Fury Road (I have seen it): Its a masterpiece and my number 2 for the century. Brilliant sci-fi action
Spirited Away: (I have seen it): Great movie but not masterpiece level.
Raiders of the Lost: (i have seen it): Incredible action-adventure but not quite at the level of a masterpiece.
Cinema Paradiso: (I have seen it): Big fat capital M masterpiece. One of the greatest movies ever made. It’s also very artistic in my opinion (how is it “not artistic enough” the ending (SPOILER ALERT!!!) with the broken down cinema and Toto in it, looks like something out of Andrei Rublev. The only movie to make me ugly cry. When i saw (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) Chaplin and Bogart at the end, I ugly cried. The power of movies and Toto’s relationship with Alfredo is beautiful. Artistically, it’s a great screenplay and follows Kazan’s ideology: “Everything must build to a climax”- kazan.
Up (haven’t seen it)
Schindler’s List: ( I have seen it): Gorgeous B and W cinematography with a devasting story. One of if not the greatest 90s movie. Spielberg’s best (even better than Jaws).
Grave of the Fireflies (I have seen it): Maybe the most powerful story told. Maybe the best-animated film of all time. (1988 was a brilliant year for film: Paradiso, Grave of the Fireflies, Roger rabbit and the thin blue line (best documentary of all time maybe).
Raging Bull (I have seen it): So devasting, it’s actually hard to look at. Big, fat, huge, capital M Masterpiece, maybe the best film of the 80s.
You chose 4 80s movies. This kinda proves my thinking about how underrated the 80s were. A great decade for movies.
Your recommendations were really good. It seems like we have similar taste in movies.
Agree with Jeff regarding Cruise. The Million Dollar Baby Duo (Eastwood and Freeman) are also worthy. Tough Choices all around.
Today I just saw The Bourne Supremacy. Incredible. Matt Harris described it perfectly. “Visceral filmmaking”. The editing, pacing, acting, dialougue, dark lighting, cinematography etc are all just brilliant, I really want to see The Bourne Ultimatum now.
Just a shame that the last 2 have such bad reviews. I don’t want to ruin it for myself by watching the last 2 haha.
The first 2 (Identity and Supremacy) really were brilliant and intelligent thrillers.
I saw Before Sunset yesterday (after the sun had set, unfortunately) and was impressed with the shining success of film realism, subverting tropes, letting the dialogue flow easy, and the like. Nearly all of cinema’s best love stories are those, like this one, where the characters are making an attempt not to express their feelings – and when I say nearly all I’m referencing In the Mood for Love, Days of Heaven, Casablanca, Lost in Translation, and more so I wouldn’t consider that an exaggeration. The closest comparison to Before Sunset is Lost in Translation, but have you noticed that it is something of a reverse Casablanca? Allow me to cite evidence:
– One heavily relates to events that happened in Paris while the story takes place in another city, and the other takes place in Paris and heavily relates to events that happened in another city.
– One has a pivotal scene in which a reluctant man is persuaded by a woman to play a love song, and the other has a pivotal scene in which a reluctant woman is persuaded by a man to play one
– One focuses on a man in a somewhat unsuccessful relationship, while the other focuses on a woman in a similar situation
– One has characters who spend the bulk of the movie talking about why they cannot be together and ends with them realizing they should be, and the other has characters who talk about why they should be together but in the end realize they should not be
I could think of even more, but they would be rather superficial. However, I believe that the ones I have cited above leave little doubt that this was not unintentional by Linklater and the actors.
What do you think of Stephen Chow? He already has two films in the tspdt top 1000 21st century and one of his films is almost in the top 150!
So I have 2046 as my number #64 film of all time (might go up or down 1-2 spots with some rethinking) and also Declan saw it recently and ranked it as a MP too (same with Days of Being Wild). Do you think you could call it a MP as well with a revisit, or even just some reflection? Because my ranking at #64 places it 97 spots ahead of yours for Before Sunset.
I think Jim Carrey and Winslet are equals in Eternal Sunshine. He’s our narrative vehicle but it’s not as simple as say Jodie Foster in Silences of the Lambs or even Cruise in EWS (he’s in Kaufman’s hands). What are your thoughts?
If you had kept Sideways as a MS, would you have Paul Giamatti in the best male performance section?
@Harry- I think so, yes
Hi, Drake! Great page for a great year, I love to read your site. I was wondering why the drop in rating for Before Sunset. Did you watch it again and change your mind? I guess the change is minor, anyway. Also, what do you think about putting the grade of the movie next to it in the top 10 section? Perhaps it makes it a little crowded, but I always like to see how many MPs, MS, etc. there are in a year, so that would make it easier. Just a suggestion, though.
@Pedro- Thank you for saying that and the suggestion. And yes- I was able to get to Before Sunset again recently.
I saw all of the top 6 films a while ago and recently just watched sideways and in my opinion I think sideways is the third best film of the year after eternal sunshine at first and 2046 at second.
@Declan- thanks for sharing. I’ve seen many of these recently including Sideways, and my confidence here is pretty high
Man this is trippy seeing another Declan on here haha, I was trying to remember when I wrote this comment but I haven’t seen Sideways. I’ll probably use DeclanG to distinguish between us.
Nice to see WKW 2046 at its rightful place at # 1 although if you combined the Kill Bills I would put it ahead (admittingly this is a little confusing given Vol.1 was released in 2003). But that aside I was really impressed by 2046 upon a recent revisit. Certainly got no issue with Tony Leung at the top spot.
I realize you only have Collateral as a R/HR basically eliminating any of the performances from contention but man Tom Cruise as Vincent is one of the best movie Villains of the 21st Century in my opinion even if the film is not, although certainly a fine film and highly rewatchable. He has many great lines but it is more than just the lines, the mannerism and he way he carries himself, a magnetic performance.
I’m sorry for Before Sunset, it’s year’s best imo. But I’m worried for movies like No county for old men or a serious man yk. Which are not as visual as say 2046 but are definitely are some of the strongest narratives ever. I’m scared that they’ll be dropped as well.
@M*A*S*H – I can’t speak for Drake and have only seen A Serious Man once and that was like 10 years ago but it seems rather unlikely that No Country will be downgraded based on the high praise on the No Country page. No Country is more than just a brilliant narrative and phenomenal acting, it was a consistent mood. Consider the gas station scene, it just drips with a level of suspense you rarely see outside of Hitchcock. Also remember that the Cinematography, which was done by the great Roger Deakins, perfectly matches the films bleak atmosphere. Consider for example the lighting using only the lamp in the hotel room with Brolin’s character as a silhouette. And speaking of the hotel scene the decision to not use music and instead let the silence create the suspense and the foreboding mood. With all that said I agree that the visuals may not be at the same level as some other MPs but there is still so much to admire.
@James Trapp- Yeah I agree. I’m more scared for A Serious Man yk. But if that means increasing Broken Embraces to a MS/MP or a MP level, I’m in.
@M*A*S*H – yeah I hear you. As I said on the Rio Bravo page, in response to some people being upset about the downgrade, I do not take these things personally as it would be strange to completely agree with someone about every movie. For the 2005 page I think A History of Violence may get downgraded from MP to MS or MP/MS and if so I will be happy to defend its MP status! I predicted Mystic River would be downgraded for the 2003 page and it was so I think I kind of have an idea on films that are downgraded.
@MASH and @James Trapp- I am trying to make improvements as I go along, and believe the objective evidence in the text supports my evaluations- but I do not expect everyone will agree with me of course.
@James Trapp- you are absolutely right about not taking stuff personally but my point was that having observed the pattern only high on narrative and less on visuals films are downgraded. Like I can never see Inside Llewyn Davis being downgraded, if anything it has a decent shot at becoming the best of coens (& I have no problem with it) but I can seriously see A Serious Man being downgraded. So in a way I was supporting narrative-driven films. Like Before sunset is one of the best narratives in cinema history but 2046 is low on narrative and more visual.
A History of Violence is a sizeable possibility, it’s again less visual more narrative.
And @Drake- you know it’s uncanny that how much I agree with you. I agree with you on almost every thing. That’s the reason that I’m a fan of the site as you appreciate stuff no one has the gut to appreciate. You are definitely not a guy who’ll trashify The 400 Blows or Jules & Jim for being very emotionally distant and call eighth grade the GOAT because it was damn relatable made you cry.
@M*A*S*H- happy to hear we’re on the same page so often. I’d like to think I am pretty quick to admit when I miss on something.
@M*A*S*H – yep, you’re correct about the narrative vs visuals in relation to this sites grading. Some of the key downgraded films are Inglorious Basterds, Rio Bravo, The Apartment, LA Confidential, Mystic River, and Piano.
And some of the key upgraded films are 2046, A Woman is a Woman, Age of Innocence, The Double Life of Veronique, a couple films from HHH, and basically Ozu’s entire filmography ha (exaggerating a bit here)
@James Trapp and @MASH- I revere all of these films- and certainly do not consider a Highly Recommend and Must See an insult by any means (or a Recommend for that matter). I am just trying to have a small distinction for those films going for more artistically or cinematically. When we do disagree on a film, it can be helpful to talk about whether I missed on something (which absolutely happens- and I hope to remedy), or whether I put less value in a work that may not offer as much in the cinematic realm/qualities.
@Drake – yeah no I understand, and to be clear I read and post on this site to discuss and learn about film, something I am passionate about and highly enjoy. That’s far more important to be than arguing over exact placements on lists and whatnot but ranking things is certainly fun and the very nature of ranking anything means putting some films above others but as stated that is certainly 2nd to me than learning and writing.
House of Flying Daggers is listed with the titles beginning in “The” in the Archives, Directors, and Grades section even though it begins with an “H”
@Graham- Yes, I’m aware. Thanks. 2000 pages at this point on the website. I’m ok with this.
I thought Audrey Tatou was excellent in A Very Long Engagement what do you think?
@M*A*S*H- I thought she was fine. I could have been so blown away by the visuals I overlooked Tatou– I’ll make sure I keep a closer eye out the next time I get to revisit.
Since you have your top 3 for 2003
1. Lost in Translation
2. Kill Bill: Vol. 1
3. Café Lumiere
and top 3 for 2004
2. Kill Bill: Vol. 2
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
If you counted Kill Bill as one film (which I believe is how Tarantino views it) how would you rank the following 5 movies?
So out of these 5 that is:
Kill Bill (all as one film)
Lost in Translation
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I have not yet watched Café Lumiere or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind although I will be watching Eternal Sunshine… in 2 weeks for my family movie club
@James Trapp- 2nd or 3rd. I hope to get to revisit a few of these before I update the decade list and top 1000
I gotta be honest, I’m kind of surprised by the fact that you couldn’t find any room for Zhangke’s The world in your top 10. That being said, I’m a huge Zhangke fan and this is my favourite movie from him, so I’m probably I’m a little biased.
@David- I’ve only had one pass through most of Zhangke’s work-so I still have work left to do here
I just saw The Phantom Of The Opera and really think deserves a spot here, at least as R…
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, I am a fan of the story itself.
Everyone here acts really great and the cinematography is beautiful.