2046 ★★★½

"In love you can't bring on a substitute." ~ Chow Mo-wan

The third and final installment of director Wong Kar-wai's "informal trilogy" recycles more than a few themes and verbatim lines delivered in his previous films. However, it places them within a new context -- an undreamt future, conceived of as science fiction by the protagonist of the preceding film, journalist Chow Mo-wan (Tony Chiu Wai Leung).

A small detail from In the Mood for Love serves as the trigger here: the number of Chow's hotel room, 2046, where he secretly meets Mrs. Chan. It becomes not only the focal year of his novel, 2046, but also the room number at another Hong Kong hotel, where he encounters a new lover, the alluring courtesan Bai Ling (Ziyi Zhang).

Also reincarnated here from the first film is the hostess named Lulu or Mimi (Carina Lau), who doubles as an android in Chow's novel. In fact, he populates his writing with characters drawn from his real life, such as hotel owner Mr. Wang (Wang Sum) who becomes a train captain, Wang's daughter Jing-wen (Faye Wong) playing another android, and her Japanese boyfriend (Takuya Kimura), who becomes the "hero" Tak of the fictional narrative.

To totally complicate matters, there's a side story about Chow's Singapore days that involves his editor Ah Ping (Ping Lam Siu) reprising his role from "Mood" and a new character coincidentally named Su Li-zhen (no relation to Maggie Cheung's prior roles) played by Li Gong as a gambler who wears a black glove on one hand.

Although I liked Wong's willingness to bring new elements into the story, especially the sci-fi sequences and Faye Wong's distraught presence, I felt that the Chow character really degenerated into a self-centered, misogynistic jerk. He uses women like tissue paper, soiling them and throwing them away. All of the good will built for him in the previous film evaporates.

This production might stand alone better than I'm giving it credit for. It is certainly ambitious. However, I've watched this in context and, to me, it is the weak link in the trilogy, a step down from its immediate predecessor and not quite equal to the original installment.

Part of my Double Feature Challenge

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