Consumed by the memory of an unfortunate love affair Chow (Tony Leung) is living in a world where reality is dangerously intertwined with fiction. In a small and dusty room of a cheap Hong Kong hotel Chow is finishing the final pages of a story recalling the women encountered throughout his life. In room 2047 strangers will show up, spend the night, and disappear without a trace barely making an impression on Chow. Except for his neighbor in room 2046, a beautiful prostitute who has captivated his imagination…so much as Chow is ready to follow her in the future where people travel to regain their lost memories.
Beautifully composed, often confusing, yet gently tingling your senses Kar Wai Wong's latest film 2046 is a pleasurable journey to a mysterious world where nothing is what it seems. Populated with stunningly beautiful women, gamblers, and plenty of shady characters Chow's world is indeed the perfect setting for a film which follows anything but a rational storyline. So much that the minute you turn your eyes away from the screen you will fall victim of Kar Wai Wong's deceiving camera and fail to put together the missing pieces in this quite intriguing film.
Teaming up some of Asia's most beautiful actresses such as Gong Li (Temptress Moon), Zhang Ziyi (The Road Home), Faye Wong (Hero) , and the stunning Maggie Chang (Clean) among others 2046 is indeed a gorgeous film to behold. Unfortunately the inevitable parallels which many viewers will draw between 2046 and Kar Wai Wong's now notorious In the Mood for Love (2000) place this futuristic film in a somewhat unfavorable position. Clearly inferior 2046 unveils a noticeably tame Kar Wai Wong, perhaps even a bit more restrained director who obviously wanted to follow up In the Mood for Love with a deserving piece of cinema. It is quite obvious however that Kar Wai Wong managed to provide more style with 2046 than substance.
Watching 2046 I certainly felt a tiny bit disappointed. Not because the results are poor but rather because this is a film by a master who undoubtedly has the special gift to evoke emotions unlike other directors that I know of. His brush, no matter what the story is, always paints a dreamy picture where lovers struggle with their passion for each other. In 2046, however, it all feels a bit too chaotic, the little pieces that typically hold Kar Wai Wong's films together are scattered, the time we are given to spend with each of the women Chow encounters insufficient. The focus on detail which made In the Mood for Love such a success in my opinion is misrepresented and as a result 2046 is not as convincing as I hoped it to be.
Arriving very late at the Cannes Film Festival 2046 was considered by many as one of the top contenders for the coveted Palm d'Or (including myself). When reactions from the preliminary screenings began emerging my curiosity was fueled by the fact that for the first time audiences were a bit unsure as to where this film ranks in Kar Wai Wong's body of works. Some considered it to be his best yet others, including myself, found 2046 to be more disappointing than visually stunning. I, just as many others who appreciate Kar Wai Wong's style, was only partially pleased with the direction 2046 followed.
There is an aspect of 2046, however, which visibly separates this film from everything else I have seen from Kar Wai Wong. It is the beautiful and superbly arranged musical score which mixes contemporary and classical tunes with the seductive rhythm of a Latin dance. Used to enhance an already visually impressive film the music score adds an exotic flavor which creates an unforgettable atmosphere where the favorite for Kar Wai theme of loss is easily perceptible.
I suspect that for years to come many will regard this film with a different degree of affection. Some will insist that Kar Wai Wong has created a masterpiece and probably rightfully so, others will argue that the film fails to successfully tell a story where the characters are translucent enough. I just feel that even after multiple viewings 2046 remains more of a visual spectacle than a film of substance.
How Does the DVD Look?
I assume that there are many fans of Kar Wai Wong in North America hoping for a strong and convincing DVD transfer and I have some great news for you. This is one stunningly beautiful transfer which with the exception of a few very minor issues I have is as close to a perfect transfer as it gets. Before we continue with the technical description of 2046 allow me to point out that even though I am unable to provide screen caps to compare the spectacular French set with the North American release (hopefully I will be able to soon) I investigated the two discs closely and firmly believe that when compared to the French set the R1 version still looks quite well.
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's 2046 looks great. To be honest the actual transfer is closer to 2.39:1 and it does appear to be in great condition. Blacks are deep and very convincing, detail is simply great and if it was not for a tiny bit of edge enhancement which I noticed here and there this would have been a perfect transfer (the few areas where you could notice some uncharacteristic softness and edge enhancement are not visible on the French set). The more picky amongst us will probably also notice some minor "mosquito-noise" but I still believe this to be a great transfer well deserving of this rather recent film. My main issue with this transfer is the inclusion of rather large for my taste yellow subtitles which I find to be quite distracting at times especially considering how delicate the composition of 2046 is. I suppose in the future we should insist on having white and smaller subtitles which are less intrusive and more pleasing especially for those with larger screens.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Unfortunately unlike the R2 versions (UK, France) the R1 release does not offer a DTS track. The supplied 5.1 Cantonese track is nevertheless crisp, clean, and quite convincing. I am a bit disappointed however as the French set I own offers a much more ambient and empowering sound than this release. The departure of the train to 2046 in the beginning of the film is perhaps the best place to compare the two. Nevertheless, I think that if you opt for the R1 disc you will most certainly be satisfied with the audio presentation.
As you probably guessed already very little has made its way from the lavish French set to the North American version and though the R1 release offers some intriguing extra materials it is not as complete as the overseas version. I can only assume that because 2046 was a massive Hong Kong/France/Germany project some of the extras provided on the French set did not make it to the R1 release due to rights issues. Either that or once again someone, somewhere, decided that the North American market does not deserve a double DVD set. With this said what you will find on this SONY release is as follows:
Behind the Scenes of 2046-an interesting footage with Kar Wai Wong and the rest of the cast revealing some of the mystery behind 2046. Some of the footage you will see in this fragment was shot during the Cannes Film Festival.
Deleted Scenes and an Alternate Ending- a total of two extra scenes (Black Spider visits Chow and the Android visits the writer) plus a curious alternate ending which I am happy was dropped as the original ending is much more convincing.
Crossed Looks: Interviews with Tony Leung, Kar Wai, and Zhang Ziyi. I urge everyone to see this interview as it reveals a great deal about Kar Wai Wong's filming preferences and especially his preference to avoid scripts whenever possible.
Anatomy of Memories- Fortunately what I consider to be one of the most appealing (short) extras from the French disc is indeed on the R1 version. Congratulations to SONY for including it as it would have been an enormous disappointment had they dropped it.
The Music of 2046-
Numerology of 2046-
International Exploration poster Gallery- Some great poster art from around the world. Highly recommended for those of you with interest in other countries' poster treatment of this film-
Previews for other Sony releases-
While as you could tell I am a bit disappointed with Kar Wai Wong's 2046 I certainly think that visually this is one of the more impressive foreign productions to be released in 2005. The R1 DVD while not as lavish as its French counterpart in my opinion presents the film quite well. I wish that SONY would have at least included a gallery with some of the international trailers to 2046 (how come there isn't a single trailer of 2046 on this DVD) so people can see how the film was promoted. I am quite happy however that indeed SONY was the studio that acquired the rights for this film as they usually do not disappoint when it comes to transfers. RECOMMENDED.