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Land of Lost Memories

2046 is not a date. It is not a mysterious code. It is the means to a destination. 2046 is the number of an apartment that once belonged to an old friend of Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), a Hong Kong-based writer who creates a futuristic sci-fi novel in which 2046 is a perpetually running train which people board in order to relive their lost memories. For director/writer Wong Kar Wai, it is also the name of his latest film.

Chow Mo Wan, smoking more cigarettes than the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel combined, floats from one damaged woman to the other. He starts with the mysterious gambler known as the "black widow" (Gong Li), then recalls a story about an old acquaintance Lulu/Mimi (Carina Lau), the former resident of apartment number 2046, and proceeds to embark on an affair with the apartment's new resident Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi). He then befriends the daughter of his landlord Wang Jing Wen (Faye Wong) who yearns to be with her Japanese beau but for the disapproval of her father stays away. When Chow begins to fall for her himself, he retreats into his fictional world and creates a futuristic short story about unrequited love and androids. When times get tough, he escapes, either physically or mentally.

Like all of Wong Kar Wai's other movies, 2046 is about hopeless love, listlessness and heartbreak. It shares the same 60s aesthetic as In the Mood For Love and possesses the same heartbreaking beauty. The woman wear their hair big and their dresses starched and the men don skinny black ties and sport slicked locks. As usual, cinematographer Christopher Doyle serves in making everyone look incredibly sexy and sophisticated; Doyle should bottle and sell whatever it is his does to make the actors in his films look like gods and the sets to look like an elusive paradise.

2046 is shot like a dream, or a lost memory. It exists in every sigh, every whisper, every look. Unfortunately, there are a lot of these and the movie, much like the train, runs too long. Furthermore, Kar Wai's meta-fictional world within in a world blends together the past and the future, but does not do so seamlessly. Like the characters' own lives, reality bleeds into fiction, and along the way, you get confused. But perhaps, confusion and disorientation is the point.

The camerawork along with the beauty of the haunting score and the stunning cast are a few of 2046's draws. However, this is not one of Wong Kar Wai's best films.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars