I've been looking forward to seeing this film by Wong Kar Wai for ages, ever since I heard that he'd directed a kind of sequel to In the Mood for Love. Like its prequel, 2046 is a languid, sensual film that takes its time to unfold, and very little actually happens. If you like action films that are packed with explosions and plot twists, this probably isn't for you. The film plays with time in many ways. In several places, captions intersperse snapshots of one of the characters frozen in some activity: 'one hour later', then '100 hours later', then '1000 hours later' and in between, a writer is poised with his fountain pen above the page, trying to finish a story. I think we've all been there in one way or another.
Chow Mo Wan (one of the characters in In the Mood for Love) leaves Singapore for Hong Kong in the late 1960s after his disastrous, never-to-be relationship with Su Lizhen, and starts writing pulp fiction. Most of the film concerns a string of doomed liasons that he has with a series of women, each time trying to recapture what he let go when he left Su Lizhen. The film-within-a-film is a sci-fi story called '2046' that Chow writes for the daughter of the owner of his apartment block (who is herself mooning after a Japanese man her father won't let her see).
2046 is visually sumptuous, with gloriously rich colours and beautiful lighting. It also has a lovely score (there are phrases from Bellini's opera 'Norma') which punctuates the spaces between the sparse sections of dialogue wonderfully. As you know, I'm generally completely uninterested in clothes, but the female characters looked so achingly stylish in their embroidered, slim dresses with high collars, that I was surprised to find myself really wanting a dress like that (and, if at all possible, a body that would look good in it). The sci-fi parts of the film (concerning a man travelling on a mysterious train, staffed by female androids, and trying to recapture something that he'd lost) reminded me a lot of the timeless quality of 2001.
It's an enigmatic film, and it's not clear what the message is, if there is one. I decided that Wong Kar Wai is trying to say that you have to take your chances when you can, because you can never recapture the past again, and you'll wander ceaselessly trying to turn back time. As Chow says in the film, "Love is a matter of timing. It's no good meeting the right person too soon or too late..."