2046 ★★½

Christopher Frayling said “All science fiction is about the year that it’s written," and that's true of the sci-fi elements of this misfire from Wong Kar-wai. The thrust of a story about Hong Kong in the late 1960s—an ostensible sequel to the wholly perfect "In the Mood for Love"—is periodically interrupted by interludes from a cut-rate mashup of "Blade Runner," "2001: A Space Odyssey" and a very bad commercial for LG wireless earpieces. This story within a story is meant to be the narrative work of the film's main character, a writer living through the middle part of the last century. But his imaginations are clearly from the early 2000s, terrible CG graphics and all, and so the result is that the film is continually and needlessly thrown off balance by anachronism.

What partially redeems "2046" is the director's peerless mastery of the aesthetics of longing, particularly as manifested in the inexhaustibly sympathetic face of leading man Tony Leung, the doe-like effervescence of Faye Wong, and the majestierially beguiling countenance of Zhang Ziyi. But even here Wong seems unsure of why he is presenting so much beauty to us, and his slow motion portraits of gorgeous actors posing wistfully, more often than not in repose with the artful embellishment of cigarette smoke, often border on parody. They are expressions of a master craftsman but they seek purpose. Which is the essential mistake of this film. Like many, many sequels, there is really no good reason for this one to have been made.

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