2046 (2004)

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Released 19-Oct-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Stephen Teo (Wong Kar Wai Expert)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 122:57 (Case: 120)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (63:59) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Kar Wai Wong
Studio
Distributor
Block 2 Pictures Inc
Madman Entertainment
Starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai
Li Gong
Takuya Kimura
Faye Wong
Ziyi Zhang
Carina Lau
Chen Chang
Wang Sum
Ping Lam Siu
Maggie Cheung
Thongchai McIntyre
Jie Dong
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Peer Raben
Shigeru Umebayashi


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Cantonese dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Sponsor logo in cityscape
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Essentially picking up not long after where In the Mood For Love left off, Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung) has returned to Hong Kong in 1967 where he rents a room in a hotel. He originally wanted to rent room 2047 but for reasons which you will have to watch the film to find out he ends up in room 2046. Soon a young woman moves into 2047: Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi). The smooth, suave womaniser Chow is soon in a relationship with her, which seems to be purely physical for him. Not so for Bai Ling, who falls in love with him. But Chow seems both unwilling to and incapable of committing to a long-term relationship.

    This film by Hong Kong director du jour Wong Lar Wai has a very simple storyline which has been dressed up stylistically to look a lot more complex and profound than it really is. Things don't always happen in chronological order with flashbacks and flash-forwards, there is a lot of repetition and a lot of symbolism. The latter take us to the year 2046 and represent a science-fiction novel that Chow is working on, set on a train. There are other relationships explored in the film, between Chow and several women. Faye Wong plays the hotel manager's daughter, who is in love with a Japanese man much to the consternation of her father. She also plays a robot in the futuristic scenes. Gong Li is a gambler whom Chow meets in Singapore, and Carina Lau appears briefly as an ill-fated friend. Even more brief is a cameo by Maggie Cheung who starred in the earlier film.

    The film is very nice to look at, with lush cinematography by Christopher Doyle making much of the colours and shadows alike. The film can be considered a successful piece of eye candy, what with the often stunning visuals coupled with a selection of Asian cinema's most beautiful actresses. Whether the movie amounts to more than that is a matter of conjecture.

    Many critics in reviewing this film have observed erroneously that 2046 is the year that Hong Kong returns to Chinese rule. In fact the Basic Law extends for 50 years after the 1997 handover, which would mean that the Special Administrative Region would return to China on 1 July 2047. Perhaps the relationship between Wong and the occupants of 2047 is intended as a metaphor for the relationship between Hong Kong and China, though that would seem a little glib.

    Those of you who have followed the career of Zhang Ziyi might be forgiven for thinking that she was only suited to providing decoration in martial arts movies, but in this movie she exhibits a surprising range and depth that suggests that she may have a more substantial career. While perhaps she is not quite up to the level of co-star Gong Li (whose contribution is disappointingly brief) her performance is something of a revelation. I only hope that she gets the opportunity to develop the skills that she shows here. Tony Leung is also very good, carrying the film despite playing what is essentially an unlikeable character.

    All in all, this movie is certainly what many people think of when the word "arthouse" is mentioned, and consistent with that cliché it seems only to have a surface depth. It is often stunning to look at, but I cannot imagine that at just over two hours that it would be worthy of many repeated viewings.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer is in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, which seems to be the original aspect ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is one of the better transfers I have seen coming via AV Channel, with almost no problems to report whatsoever. It is sharp and clear with good contrast and excellent shadow detail. The colour palette is especially fine, and it is good to see a transfer of a Hong Kong film with the preferred green filtering. Flesh tones vary according to the suntan of the actors, with Tony Leung's darker skin contrasting with the paleness of Zhang Ziyi.

    Edge enhancement is occasionally visible in this transfer, and from time to time I thought I saw some minor compression artefacts on areas of solid colour. Some grain is visible throughout. I did not notice any film artefacts.

    Optional English subtitles are provided in a yellow font. These are quite readable and well-timed.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer change placed at 63:59.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three audio options aside from the commentary, all being in Cantonese. I listened to the DTS 5.1 track and sampled the Dolby Digital 5.1 track. I did not listen to the Dolby Digital 2.0 track.

    The DTS track is excellent in most respects. Dialogue is clear and the audio generally sounds full and detailed without any distortion whatsoever. Audio sync is excellent. The audio is very much geared towards the three front channels, with only occasional effects (mainly ambient sounds) and music coming from the rears. There are few low frequency effects, and the subwoofer kicked into life very rarely. Apart from being at a slightly lower volume, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track was very much the same as the DTS.

    The music score by Shigeru Umebayashi weaves classical themes and music of the 1960s with a specially composed 2046 main theme. Notable is the use of Casta Diva from Norma, which gets played often by the hotel manager. The music is very effective in creating a mood for the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    Some graphical animation and music from the soundtrack.

Audio Commentary-Stephen Teo (Wong Kar Wai Expert)

    Stephen Teo is a fan of Wong Kar Wai and of this film. He is also very knowledgeable about Hong Kong cinema, and I have read a book of that name written by him that covers more than just the martial arts and heroic bloodshed genres. In discussing 2046 he goes into a lot of detail about the storyline, explaining some obscure plot points and highlighting references to earlier Wong Kar Wai films. He also indicates where the subtitles on this release don't quite convey the intended meaning of the dialogue. What Teo also does, especially at the start of the movie, is provide a very Freudian analysis of the symbolism. While his delivery is a little dry, this commentary is well worth a listen.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Also released in Region 4 by Hopscotch is a two-disc Special Edition. The first disc appears to be identical to the Ordinary Edition, while according to AV Channel's website the second disc contains:

    The interviews are in English but apparently the Zhang Ziyi interview has burned-in French subtitles. There are also reports that some of the extras do not play properly in some players.

    An All Regions release from China comes from a company called Guang Dong Face video. The extra material on this release does not have English subtitles and the video is not 16x9 enhanced. The film also is reported to have an occasional logo appearing, presumably for piracy control purposes.

    Another All Regions release from Hong Kong comes from Mei Ah. This appears to include only a trailer as an extra. Mei Ah also have a two disc edition, with the second disc containing the Making Of featurette, the Zhang Ziyi On Set featurette and another featurette called "Lovers". All have English subtitles.

    The Region 2 2-disc release from France has more extras than can comfortably be mentioned here, but there are no English subtitles.

    Tartan Video's UK Region 2 release contains basically the same extras as the Region 4 Special Edition, but without the Making Of featurette and with an interview that is about a quarter of the length of the one on the Region 4.

    A Region 3 release from Korea has the same extras as the 2-disc Mei Ah release, but also includes the soundtrack CD.

    The US Region 1 release contains the following extras:

    If you want the best possible edition of this film, then the choice is difficult. The Region 4 Special Edition appears on the face of it to be superior to this single-disc edition. The Region 1 has more extras than the Region 4, but does not have an audio commentary nor a DTS soundtrack. The French release has a smorgasbord of extras but the lack of English subtitles rules it out for non-French speakers. Anyone who wants to get the most out of this movie may have to either wait for a mega-edition with English subtitles or buy more than one of the editions on offer.

Summary

    I'm afraid that while I enjoyed the film I found it a bit shallow. As critical opinion seems divided over the film, the best thing to do is see it for yourself and make up your own mind.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio is also very good.

    The only substantial extra being the commentary, those readers who want more substantial fare should look to the Special Edition or to an overseas edition. If you just want the film, then this release is all you need.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

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