puffin’s review published on Letterboxd:
6/30: Hong Kong
yeah, yeah, okay jonathan white. i won't doubt you again. not that i ever did to begin with.
Perhaps Wong Kar-Wai's most compelling story to date, with his spectacular musicality to give it life beyond the script, onto the frame and faces of his actors. This cryptic back-and-forth between fiction and reality, past and present, it definitely loses me at points but never to the degree that I don't want to find my footing again. Working with multiple dimensions, often crossing over to match a mindset or to emphasize some beautiful parallels. This isn't some implied reincarnation or jagged soul-based repetition of events. This is an exploration of where art lies in the meaning of existence, and what might it tell us that isn't initially seen through reality? In what ways can it change reality? And in what ways does it take precedent over reality?
Philosophically complicated, but Wong cares a lot about that initial experience, to a point where myself pointing out a philosophical/personal reading feels like I'm ignoring the exhilaration of its moments. Each scene is as exciting in a mindless viewing as it is upon further reflection. Wong was always a terrific mindless viewing, regardless of if his work required or begged for a deeper reading or not, but 2046 is among his most complex. Not that it isn't hard to "get", but only in a broader sense. Wong gives the viewer a great grasp of where he is heading, but never to a point that we have it all figured out. There is always more to find in 2046.
In the fiction of 2046 we see an individual's mind. The way they cope, the way they think, etc. It is all intensely personal and framed with that personality in mind. But we also see so much of what the mind interprets. Whole cultures, eras, groups of people, concepts, a whole universe inside one mind. The size and scope of 2046's deeper fiction is a stunning contrast to the story of the man who makes it, who justifies its existence and keeps it alive, moving, revolving around his own life. Phasing in and out of reality as if it was just as real.
In that way 2046 reminds me of Federico Fellini's 8 1/2. As artists ourselves (reviewing is an art after all) we definitely find some sympathy for these stories about an artist's struggle. But it's also easy to scrutinize, with most artist stories not capturing the degree of detail or the confused, ultra-personal act of creation in the midst of reality's incessant reminders. 2046 works because it is jumbled, and lost, and constantly removing itself from what "matters". 2046 doesn't push one layer (fact or fiction) above the other for some statement about which "matters" more.
It is, to me at least, about losing your footing between layers of art and reality until that line separating the two disappears and both sides act as a mirror for the other. The light of reality reflecting on the worlds we make from it.