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CD Review: 2046

2046 ****


Virgin Music CDVIRX215

20 tracks – 60:46

2046 is director Wong Kar-Wei's controversial follow-up/sequel to the well received In the Mood for Love. The movie's title has many meanings: First off, it is the year that Hong Kong's 50-year self regulatory independence from China expires. But for the character of Mr. Chow (Tony Leung), it was the room number where he and Mrs. Chan (Maggie Chung) had their affair in the earlier movie, and is now the room number of a different hotel where many of his dalliances now occur. It is also the name of a story that Chow is writing about a futuristic place called 2046 where people go to seek some kind of transcendence, but from where no one has ever returned. Whew. All these implications serve to confuse the viewer and muddle the narrative. What does work is Chow's actual life in 1960's Singapore, and how he deals with the loss of the love of his life.

Where In the Mood for Love was about love and its intoxicating spell, 2046 concerns the reality that emerges after the love cloud dissipates. Chow meets four women through the course of the movie, a tragic girl who's running from the memory of a love affair, a lusty prostitute (Ziyi Zhang) who may have real feelings for the first time with Chow, an icy gambler (Gong Li) with unrequited feelings for Chow, and the daughter (Faye Wong) of the hotel owner, who's having a forbidden love affair with a Japanese businessman (it is this last woman who's the inspiration for Chow's futuristic story).

Music is very important in Wong Kar-Wei's movies, since the songs are repeated many times throughout the movie. Wong's song choices are like those in a David Lynch movie: haunting, slightly out of place and evocative. This Lynchian ambiance is particularly evident here. The choice of Latin-flavored '60s music may be historically correct, but the abundance of them in the film creates a hypnotic version of '60s nostalgia. The most frequently used song is Connie Francis' vocal version and Xavier Cugat's instrumental version of "Siboney." Francis' version starts with an evocative conga drum intro before Francis' voice floats into the song. Cugat's version is more dance oriented. Wong also uses Cugat's "Perfidia," a languid love melody with a strange whipping sound as percussion. Also playing an important role in the movie is "Casta Diva," the aria from Bellini's opera Norma, as well as the Nat King Cole Trio's "The Christmas Song."

Composer Shigeru Umebayashi follows his full scale dramatic work on House of Flying Daggers with a much more intimate score. The one exception is grand, over the top main theme, which portends to a plot twist later in the movie (similar in effect to Alberto Iglesias' title music in Bad Education). Unfortunately, nothing in the final version of the movie really necessitates such grandeur. There are three versions of this theme used in the film, including a more fun rumba.

The CD is a hodgepodge of everything, but works as a whole. Snippets of music by German composer Peer Raben, as well as veteran composers Georges Delerue and Zbigniew Preisner's older work also appear in the movie, and fits comfortably in the mix.

There are many available versions of this soundtrack, many of them from Asia, but the one most readily available is the British version from Virgin. I'm sure there will be an American release when the movie finally arrives stateside.

2046 is infamous for holding up its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival because Wong was tinkering with it up until the last minute. Supposedly that version of the movie was a mess. The movie is still messy, but an interesting one from a visual director who may have more tricks up his sleeves.     -- Cary Wong

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