Endlessly being re-written…
Kar-Wai works with no script. He conjures up stories about the process of conjuring up stories. Since he starts from the middle of his cosmology, about his cosmology, we get a movie that is about his other movies. To make this point more explicit, we have a story within the movie, a novel titled ‘2046’. It is a fictional story based on our hero’s real-life events. This novel is also a film, which we get to view.
So we have a novel within the film, about the main characters of the film, and we have this novel be a film as well. When we have this level of self-reference, deeper levels helplessly create themselves. In this case, we have the real-life characters playing their characters in the novel-movie. This kind of stuff is unavoidable, precisely because Kar Wai’s process is about creation about creation; life as something inevitably intertwined with art, and vice versa.
I will spare you the stuff about the lost love story. Instead, notice how every interaction here is designed to paint some of the emotional intricacies of attachment. In past Wong movies, we had this same general idea, but approached with a much lighter, wistful, and distant, tone. This time, there is actual risk, there is actual hurt, there is actual devotion, there is deliberate self-destructiveness. The unfoldings are set-up to evoke this disturbing intensity. So we have loss, regret, and painful longing. This stuff is visceral. It is very intense. If you believe there is some kind of painful poetry to feelings, you will feel all this slowly unfolding in your gut.
The mood here is inherently cinematic. The framing is intimate, the lounge spaces are smoky and hazy green, the lights are dimmed throughout. Chris Doyle and Chang have an unmatched eye. The tones are luscious. So working from this aesthetic mood, every situation annotating a similar real-life-situation, intensifies it. Your late night cab rides, or dinners with friends in fancy restaurants, will never feel the same way again. The prospect of living on your own in a beat hotel writing martial arts novels seems so adventurous, and exciting that you might just go off and do it.
There is a shot in the middle of the movie where the camera is fixed as clouds move languorously across the sky. This reflects what the camera has been doing all along: moving like clouds hovering over a doomed universe of love, loss, and longing. If you were lucky enough to feel this, you understand the cinematic achievement we have here.
I feel very grateful somehow.