The Late Show


CANNES, FRANCE—“Due to a delay in receiving the film 2046 by Wong Kar-wai, it has been necessary to modify the schedule for Thursday, May 20.” With this unprecedented communiqué, Cannes shuffled a full day’s screenings, and filmdom’s biggest tease left us hanging again. “Over the last four years there is a joke: When is the film going to be finished?” Wong said at his press conference. “Before 2046, or maybe in 2046? But this joke is over, and I am so glad. Thank you very much.”

The new film’s die-hard romanticism recalls Wong’s previous movie, In the Mood for Love, but the Scope-shot 2046 is more complex, trapped in a Resnais-like time warp. This vertiginous film about waiting is well worth the wait. “At the beginning I thought 2046 was only the continuation of one character [Tony Leung’s Mr. Chow],” Wong said the day after the premiere, refuting the suggestion that the new film is a sequel to In the Mood, and explaining why Maggie Cheung appears only briefly. “I knew that if I had Maggie in the ’60s sections, then the film must be a sequel. But I didn’t want to make A Man and a Woman: 20 Years Later. They had a beautiful story, and it should be preserved.”

Maybe, finally, Wong has learned his lesson. Dividing the critics and ignored by the jury, Wong might work more practically in the future. (Next: a more structured film about Bruce Lee with Leung, but also a follow-up to 2046 focusing on Gong Li’s one-gloved gambler.) This need for change provides 2046‘s intriguing subtext. “I realized I was making a film about myself, about our process of making films! This film concludes all of my previous work. It’s like a reunion of all the past moments. We tried for something different, but the past kept coming back.”

Wong was reluctant to detail his sprint to the finish line, which he blamed on CGI problems. Rumors circulated that he spliced in a scene the morning of the screening, while a wonky sound mix spawned charges that 2046 is nowhere near complete. Hiding behind his sunglasses, Wong was artful in his dodgery: “Anyone can say the film isn’t complete, but you could say this about all of my films. But this is the final editing—as of May 2004.”