August 19, 2005

Wong Kar Wai's "2046"

"2046" -- From my review in the upcoming September 12th issue of The American Conservative (subscribe here):

Hong Kong might be the most materialistic city in the world, but its wealth has made feasible the expensive obsessions of one of the movie business' true aesthetes, Wong Kar Wai. His film "2046," a tone poem about erotic nostalgia, has finally debuted in America more than six years after he began filming with an all-star cast of China's most glamorous leading ladies.

The making of "2046" -- Wong's lavish quasi-sequel to his oblique and exquisite little ode to unrequited ardor, "In the Mood for Love" -- could be called the Asian "Eyes Wide Shut," if Stanley Kubrick's laborious production had employed not just Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, but also Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Angelina Jolie, and Bjork.

Fortunately, after infinite tribulations, Wong and his long-suffering colleagues, most notably the great Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle (the lensman for last year's grand "Hero"), have emerged with a triumph, although a languorous and self-indulgent one. "2046" can induce the kind of reverie, the art buzz, that few films even attempt these days, but make sure you see it in a theatre with comfy seats.

"2046" stars five famous Chinese actresses, with Zhang Ziyi making the most indelible impact as a sultry taxi dancer who falls hopelessly in love with the caddish hero. Zhang has been seen mostly in kung fu movies like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," but in "2046" she seems quite happy not having to kick anybody. Instead, she, like all the women in the film, wears extremely tight 1960s dresses and even tighter high heels. (Wong's foot fetish would be comic if it wasn't so lyrically visualized.)...

Although Wong's delightful 1994 comedy "Chungking Express" was a tribute to pop culture, his wistful focus has turned increasingly toward the vanished Hong Kong of the 1960s, where his family lived in a Mandarin-language cocoon trying to keep alive Shanghai's 1949 culture. "2046" is perhaps most reminiscent of another exile from Communism's science fiction novel about a future that evoked his longed-for past, Vladimir Nabokov's Ada.

Nabokov would have liked "2046."

Also, Tommy Leung displays tremendous masculine charisma as the lothario nursing a secret sorrow.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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