Alex Didion’s review published on Letterboxd:
I may be in the minority here when I say that In The Mood For Love was mediocre. Despite containing a few trademarks from filmmaker Wong Kar Wai, the film left me somewhat cold. I never thought there was any underlying motivation for both Maggie Cheung or Tony Leung to have an affair, the Hong Kong mis-en-scene doesn't seem to have any character and Kar Wai’s directorial choices were odd, such as repeating music cues every ten minutes or Leung just smoking for the sake in looking cool. Then again, this is from a first viewing, so maybe I would watch it again if I actually missed out anything that people grasped upon which I didn't.
2046 is the loose sequel to Kar Wai’s previous effort featuring Leung’s character Chow staying at a hotel in room 2046. Following the events from that film, he is hopelessly looking for love to three beautiful women, writing those events in a sci fi novel where a fast speed train transports people to the year 2046 to reclaim their lost memories. This may sound controversial, but I prefer this film than In The Mood For Love. In fact it answered some of the problems I had with the latter.
What I love about Kar Wai isn’t just that he is a visual stylist, but that he is able to put a romantic storyline and fills it with genuine emotion as possible, to which the style complements this. With a film like Chungking Express, he presents his characters who experience a sense of modern alienation that is very palatable and endearing. In 2046, he retreads what made that film great and that isn’t a bad thing. He conveys the idea of lost memories and Chow’s loneliness. He is looking for something to find cover from his solace.
We see the setting of Hong Kong evolve, matching the historical context of the 1960s. We’re revealed that the city fell into a recession and the film depicted is so melancholy.
I found the narrative to be well constructed. What does the narrative where Chow puts his experiences in his sci-fi novel adds to his character? It presents a lot of inspiration from love. And this comes off very precise and inventive.
The film has some of the most gorgeous imagery I have ever seen in a film and this is something you could expect from Wong Kar Wai and his frequent cinematographer Christopher Doyle. The color scheme (a mixture of green and red) for both Hong Kong in 1967-9 and in Chow’s fantasy novel, as well as the constant freeze-frames are exquisite and compliments the moods of the characters.
The casting here is sublime. Tony Leung is brilliant as Chow. Not only does he convey a lot of heartbreak in his character, but he carries a great level of charisma that he reminds me of Golden Age Hollywood actors like Cary Grant. Faye Wong is actually good playing the antithesis of her character from Chungking Express and Zhang Ziyi and Gong Li are pretty pleasing to the eye as his new acquaintances and they – particularly Ziyi – share some great chemistry with Leung.
Overall, 2046 is pure Wong Kar Wai. It’s gorgeous, both visually and emotionally with a cast that is well inspired and charismatic. Unlike In The Mood For Love there is some less repetition that didn’t annoy me such as repeating that one music cue over and over and they’re aren’t any scenes that were shot for the sake of looking cool. I don’t have anything to conclude other than to say, this is his best film since Chungking Express.