Cannes on DVD...a year later
There is a scene late in Wong Kar-Wai's 2046 where Tony Leung's hack anti-hero contemplates rewriting the conclusion of his sci-fi story, 2047, pen poised millimetres above paper. A minute flashes by in an intertitle. Then ten minutes. Then a hundred. And still he hasn't moved a muscle.
It's a neat gag at Wong's own expense. The belated follow-up to In the Mood for Love, 2046 showed up at Cannes last May two years and two days behind schedule. Even then it wasn't finished. It missed its playdate as the closing film at the Edinburgh Film Festival in August while Wong kept reshooting. This is a man who finds it almost impossible to let go. Not coincidentally, this is also his major theme: forlorn suitors and jilted lovers rake over the ashes of time with the obsessive avidity of prospectors, sifting for the perfect souvenir.
In Leung's sci-fi story, 2046 is a train terminus rumoured to harbour just such a nirvana; a permanent bliss out. Neither Wong nor his alter-ego can quite bring themselves to believe in it. 2046 is also a room number at the Hotel Orient, where Leung seduces a succession of Chinese screen stars, including Zhang Ziyi (whose never been better), Gong Li, Carina Lau and Faye Wong.
There isn't a plot as such. Stories bleed into other stories – just as 2046 picks up on and reflects themes, motifs, characters and actors from Wong's previous movies, especially Days of Being Wild and In the Mood for Love. It's a rarified and self-reflexive reverie, both spellbinding and, a little suffocating.
Also released on DVD recently a year after they played at Cannes, the restored director's version of Sam Fuller's autobiographical war movie The Big Red One, starring Lee Marvin; the controversial wine documentary Mondovino (a powerful indictment of unrestrained global capitalism with a magnificent gallery of larger-than-life characters); and the Japanese drama Nobody Knows, for which 12-year-old Yuya Yagira was named Best Actor by Quentin Tarantino's jury. Based on a true story, it's a beautifully shot, poignant heart-tugger about a nest of kids fending for themselves after they've been abandoned by their mother.