As Vincent Gallo would no doubt attest with “The Brown Bunny,” second thoughts after rushing to meet a Cannes deadline can yield immensely positive results. However, for Wong Kar-wai’s “2046” — already in production for four years prior to its last-minute preem at Cannes on May 20 — a further four months of editorial cogitating has produced less markedly different results. Four minutes longer than the Cannes version, with some extra material and a reworked music track, “2046” redux is only a slightly different movie — and with most of the same strengths and weaknesses.
Crucially, the superbly played half-hour section describing the affair between writer-gigolo Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) and Mainland goodtime gal Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi) remains intact, with this relationship still forming the emotional core of the movie and returning for a powerful punch near the end. Though only fifth-billed, young thesp Zhang is still the femme standout amid a star-laden cast.
Main structural change is the reordering of some of the material centered on Chow’s relationship with the hotel owner’s elder daughter, played by Faye Wong, in an apparent attempt to make her character the main female role. (For example, a scene of Faye Wong making love, observed by a peeping Tom, now comes much earlier in the pic, prior to Bai Ling’s appearance.)
Though Faye Wong’s scenes are now spread more evenly throughout the movie, including those featuring her as a fembot on the 2046 train, the overall effect simply underlines the central weakness of the pic: that the neo-kitschy futuristic scenes don’t add much to the real-life ’60s relationships, which already contain everything helmer Wong wants to say about memory and regret, and the impossibility of returning in time for a second chance.
Overall, this final “2046” has a more ordered, less quirkily structured feel that isn’t necessarily an improvement on the Cannes version. Rescued material is relatively brief, with a couple more shots of Maggie Cheung (in a car with Tony Leung in B&W, smoking a cigarette in color), and ditto of Carina Lau as a futuristic fembot, to no great extra gain.
On the tech side, helmer Wong has reworked some of the music, reducing the use of Nat “King” Cole’s “The Christmas Song” to twice rather than an over-repetitive five times, and the CGI-rendered city of the future is now properly colored rather than simply B&W outlines. Color throughout is far less saturated than the Cannes print (with a luminous, refracted-light quality to some of Faye Wong’s scenes) and is actually emotionally less resonant, though reportedly closer to helmer Wong’s intentions.
New end credits reflect the final version, with at least one now removed — that of martial arts co-ordinator Tung Wai, whose sequences remain on the cutting-room floor along with much other footage. Version seen by a couple of thousand people at Cannes has reportedly been dismantled. This final version had its official world premiere in Shanghai Sept. 20, with general release in China and Hong Kong on Sept. 28.
(To read Derek Elley’s May 21 review of the Cannes version, click here).