A companion piece to In the Mood for Love, Wong Kar Wai's 2046 is even dreamier, more romantic, and more dazzling than its predecessor. The theme, once again, is memory and regret; the technique is totally expressionistic and personal. Exquisitely filmed, laustrophobic interiors become the stage upon which the writer-turned-gigolo Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung Chiu Wai, reprising his character from Mood) dallies in love with four beautiful women, losing one after the other. In the end, this compulsive seducer-whose Clark Gable moustache makes him all the more irresistible-is left with nothing. The action takes place on December 24, jumping from 1966 to 1969, with a leap into a fantasy-future. Besides Hong Kong's leading man Leung, the cast is all-star: Gong Li plays a tragic gambler who wears a signature black glove; young mainland China actress Ziyi Zhang (House of Flying Daggers) is luminous as an expensive call girl who falls hard for Chow; singer-actress Faye Wong injects a note of humor as the hotel owner's starry-eyed daughter, smitten with a Japanese beau; and Carina Lau cameos as a goodtime girl who is murdered. These mini-stories are framed by a futuristic train that goes to the year 2046, from where no one ever returns-just as the characters realize that, in love, it is impossible to revisit the past. 2046, by the way, is also the date of Hong Kong's final integration into China.
Wong Kar Wai is a product of the Hong Kong filmmaking community of the '90s but is more a student of Jean-Luc Godard and the French New Wave than the action blowout work of peers such as John Woo or Tsui Hark. Wong studied graphic design at Hong Kong Polytechnic, then developed an interest in photography and enrolled in a TV drama training program, progressing to writing nearly a dozen films over the next years. The gangster film As Tears Go By (1985) marked his directorial debut. Days of Being Wild (1991), his sophomore effort, garnered a number of international awards. Each of his subsequent films placed him more and more prominently in the pantheon of major filmmakers: Chungking Express (1994), Fallen Angels (1995), Ashes of Time (1997), Happy Together (1998), and In the Mood for Love (2000).