At the movies

Published: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 12:29 a.m.


RATED: R STARS: Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi THEATERS: Hippodrome Cinema eeee If you could touch "2046," it would feel soft and luxurious, like cashmere.
A film about the impossibility of recapturing the past, "2046" uses lush orchestral music, color-drenched visuals and operatically expressive acting to summon a humid world where lovers circle each other, never loving each other at the same time.
The antihero is Mr. Chow (dapper Tony Leung), whose affection for a mystery woman in Leung's previous movie with writer/director Wong Kar Wai, "In the Mood for Love," wasn't returned. This time, he's the one not returning love - not returning it to a series of beautifully dressed women (including Zhang Ziyi, from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") who live across the hall from him in Room 2046.
Wong drops hints about the title - besides the room number, Chow is writing a novel set in 2046 - but does not mention a crucial detail he could assume viewers in Hong Kong would know: 2046 is when China's agreement to let Hong Kong remain autonomous ends. The year marks a dramatic shift, just as the end of Chow's romance in "In the Mood for Love" altered his world, embittering him and sending him into a tailspin from which he can't recover.
The course of love never does run smooth in a Wong movie, where men and women are like countries that could be allies one day and go to war with each other the next. And even when they're in love, it rarely makes them happy.
"I don't care if you love me or not. I'll love you anyway," says Zhang, who I'd describe as hypnotically beautiful if it weren't for the fact that every man, woman, piece of fabric and doorway in the movie is hypnotically beautiful. Wong finds swoonily gorgeous moments everywhere - in cigarette smoke, in the way a foot traces a pattern on a floor, in a deck of cards being dealt.
These are the images Wong uses to immerse us in Chow's unhappy world, and, all the time, we are asking ourselves, "How did Chow become such a nasty person? What happened to him?" Near the end, Chow lets slip why his romantic future seems doomed, and it comes as no surprise to learn that the answer lies in the past.
- Chris Hewitt St. Paul Pioneer Press Paramount Pictures

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