This film is all about mood. The mood grabs you in Singapore 1967, when a struggling writer named Chow (Tony Leung) tries to convince his true love (Gong Li) to come with him to Hong Kong on Christmas Eve. She refuses, then seems to completely vanish from his life. Earlier we were hit by more mood when in the year 2046 a man also tries to convince his true love to go back in time with him so they can be together this theme, on a train to nowhere, repeats as Chow is writing a serialized science fiction novel from a Hong Kong room, number 2046.
Chow is a man who wants love, fears it (and thus pushes it away when it gets too close), gives up on it, then wants love again while knowing he will never truly grasp it. Instead, he sits in his room alone, writes his futuristic tales (which are clearly about himself), and beds stunningly beautiful women while the films mood grabs the audience, caresses us, and keeps us in its thrall.
There is only one cinematographer who can create such mood the legendary Christopher Doyle. And here he uses the camera to create a sort of living energy on the screen that the actors almost have to swim through.
This follow-up to In the Mood for Love hits all the right notes, and moves us in much the same way. All the actors are sublime, though Leung stands out as a man who will never get over the heart-break he suffered through in Singapore, while Ziyi Zhang adds a jolt of energy to the proceedings.
Movies like 2046 are extremely rare, and when we do come across them, their “taste stays with us for life.