2046 is like Closer, in that both deal with the nature of attraction, but 2046 is more mysterious and less transparent. The story of the film, 2046, centers around Chow Mo Wan’s (Tony Leung) character who has left his job as a newspaperman and taken up writing sci-fi novels. 2046 is the name of his latest effort regarding a city of the same name where people go to recall long forgotten memories. To get to 2046 requires transit on train that only leaves once in a blue moon. Not wanting to live in a place where everything stays the same, he boards a train back from 2046. But 2046 has a different meaning in Wan’s world, taken from the number of the hotel apartment adjacent to his own, and its parade of female tenants that never cease to remind him of his long lost love. Over the months, as different women come, go, and return to the apartment next door, he finds his daily fantasies, ghosts from the past, and the women themselves become entwined in his fictional narrative.
What makes 2046 a seminal work is the way that it’s put together – this is a magical, yet isolated world that reminds you that love and loneliness are often bedfellows. It’s a melancholic film, but because it has been filmed so well is strangely uplifting. This may not be the kind of film that will entertain the masses but it is the work of a master filmmaker.
Aside from being overly long, my only other gripe would be Zhang Ziyi. Frankly, she is terrible. Usually, I am capatvated by her beauty on screen but in this case her martial arts are no substitute for weak acting ability and her soulless eyes in this film creep me out. Thankfully, although routinely criticized for his weak narratives, Mr. Wong is one of the few filmmakers working in commercial cinema who refuse to be enslaved by traditional storytelling.
In my opinion, this is an intoxicatingly beautiful, maddeningly elliptical and utterly enthralling meditation on the fleeting pleasures and haunting aftermath of doomed romance. If this film was Americanized I would probably reject it to being a boderline chick flick, but what saves this from becoming that is it gives us a glimpse of the eternal and, like art at its most sublime, like this film, a means for transcendence. Strongly Recommended.