TV Binge: A Love So Beautiful (致我们单纯的小美好, 2017)

The first to show up is one accessible to most because on Netflix. International stuff, yay! I probably should have written the Meteor Garden one up first since that was how I landed on watching this one. Oh well, that one is coming up just it is a whole lot more work for that one so here we are at A Love So Beautiful. Its also perfectly timed because another story from the same author was also adapted called Put Your Head On My Shoulder (致我们暖暖的小时光) is currently playing on WeTV channel on Youtube.

While I’ve been reviewing a lot of Chinese variety shows, this is the first drama that I’ll be talking about and after some thought, I’m going to work on a few points that I think should be discussed as a general outline for future TV binge posts to make it easier to write up, especially for the Chinese series.

A Love So Beautiful (2017)

A Love So Beautiful

Creator: Yang Long

Cast: Shen Yue, Hu Yi Tian, Gao Zhi Ting, Sun Ning, Wang Zi Wei, Monica Lv

It starts off with high school classmates Chen Xiao Xi and Jiang Chen who are also neighbors. Xiao Xi, a cheerful girl who doesn’t study much, is expressive about her admiration towards Jiang Chen, the popular guy known for his looks and high grades. Together with their fellow classmates the funny Lu Yang, athletic but loyal Jingjing, and cool swimming team member Wu Bo Song, they embark on high school life to university until their adult life. – MyDramaList

STORY

A Love So Beautiful is adapted from To Our Pure Little Beauty by Qianqian Zhao. The story revolves around the very outwardly Chen Xiao Xi (Shen Yue) who professes her love directly to Jiang Chen (Hu Yitian) at the beginning of her senior high year, which kicks off the ton of the film. She tries to impress him and in turn be a better version of herself to match up to him. The story itself is cute and hilarious because she does a lot of little things that most of the time backfire or becomes very awkward. However, there is this heartwarming element of coming to age and finding herself especially as she grows up. Its this lightheartedness of the story and how its delivered that makes the few years in high school and their step into university and then adulthood become such a fun experience (most of the time, because this is still a drama). The tone of the series sets itself up right at the beginning and it maintains it. At the same time, what helps it in the storytelling is filling in those little moments at the end of every episode to give a hidden moment or just the inner thoughts of a character (mostly used by Jiang Chen since he talks less). At the same time, the story focuses on the friendship of five friends that also gets sparked from the first episode onwards.

LENGTH/PACING

A Love So Beautiful clocks in at 23 episodes with shorter 20 minutes special to make total 24 episodes. Each episode is about 40 minutes long. Those are one of the most fun to watch as the episode lengths are very reasonable and episode count is also very restricted giving it the space to be paced fairly quickly with enough development to give all the characters space to grow but never linger on anything too long.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

A LOVE SO BEAUTIFUL

The main focus of A Love So Beautiful is on five characters. Billed as the main leads is Shen Yue playing Chen Xiao Xi and Hu Yi Tian playing Jiang Chen who both star in their first main roles here. Fighting for Shen Yue’s love and attention is Wu Bosong, played by Gao Zhi Ting. On the other hand is Chen Xiao Xi’s good friends, Lu Yang played by Wang Zi Wei and Lin Jingxiao played by Sun Ning who also have a love tangent as Lu admires Lin and sets out to chase her also. Looking at the characters, each of these five have their differences in their personality and make them mesh together really well. Chen Xiao Xi works with her cute and silly personality but not as invested in school and the more serious things at school, while her best friend Lin, is more of a strong and smart character. Their friendship starts at the beginning of the series and sees it become very strong to almost being sisters. While at the same time, the boys in the series are held together by Lu, who is not so much invested in school who plays almost a male version of Chen Xiao Xi and explains how they always share the same general interests but also argue with each other a lot and its these friendly bickering moments that make for a lot of comedic moments. However, the love triangle is presented as a very skewed one because we know that Chen Xiao Xi likes Jiang Chen and Wu Bosong likes her while we eventually know that Jiang Chen, while always acts cold and indifferent actually can see in his small movements that he does care about Chen Xiao Xi also.

One of the strengths of A Love So Beautiful is in its characters. The way that they focus on the friendships here and the strength of it no matter what happens between them. At the same time, the love triangle is also not frustrating but rather one that its easy to get wrapped up in who is better for Xiao Xi, despite the fact that there is no doubt that she does like Jiang the most from the beginning and her perseverance is one that is admirable to say the least. However, as she gets over and gives more than she gets back (from what she knows), its hard to not feel bad for her when Jiang’s resistance to sharing his feelings eventually becomes to get in his way. Its the moments that we see them together that we also learn a little more about a lot of actions is stronger than talk and their chemistry works because of that. However, a lot of praise has to go to Wu because he really is a great person here as he is the role of ultimate unrequited love but is so great because despite everything he is not only loyal to everyone in the friends group, he also is one of the more simple characters as he has big dreams. What works here is that whether who it is, the differences in each of the characters here give each of their interactions something different and depth and it works in the show’s favor so much.

OVERALL

a love so beautiful

A Love So Beautiful is a fun little TV series in the landscape of Chinese TV dramas. In its high school crushes to romances and friendship, it highlights the emphasizes a lot of positive themes other than its cute romance but it embodies a coming of age for all these characters in each of their own ways, having the courage to step forward to follow their own dreams as well as the importance of family and friends. It takes a more lighthearted, well-paced and cute/fun and heartwarming angle and it works so very well. Its one of my favorite TV dramas so far. One that I willingly rewatch. While I do like all the characters, this series really fortified my love for Shen Yue and her acting and looking at the different role she takes in Meteor Garden (will be discussed soon) and her upcoming roles which also go in different characters, it’ll be interesting to see where she takes her career especially since she keeps a down to earth attitude when in variety shows which gives her a uniqueness to her as an actress. My only real criticism for A Love So Beautiful is how it ends because it feels so random to end that way. In its way, it seems to go full circle but then it felt a little awkward to cut it off where it did.

That’s it for this TV binge!
The first Chinese TV drama binge finally crossed off the list!

A Love So Beautiful is available on Netflix with all kinds of subtitles so its one to check out if this type of series if up your alley.

Advertisements

Ultimate 2000s Blogathon: The Twins Effect (2003) – Asian Cinema Film Club [Podcast]

Kicking off Week 3 of Ultimate 2000s Blogathon is the Asian Cinema Film Club hosted by Elwood and Stephen. AC Film Club is a monthly podcast that takes a look at  different Asian films ranging from Chinese, Korean, Japanese and other films. It doesn’t stop there as you can follow their blog to see monthly mixtapes for a variety of Asian music as well as reviews and essays, etc. You should give them a follow and join them as they are about to pass their 25th episode milestone. For their choice for the Ultimate 2000s Blogathon, they are sharing their podcast of 2003’s Hong Kong vampire action horror film, The Twins Effect.


The Twins Effect

The Twins Effect (2003)

Elwood and Stephen kick off 2019 looking at “The Twins Effect” a wonderfully random mash up of vampires, romantic comedy and special friendly appearances?
On this episode, they dive into this star-studded movie vehicle for Cantopop duo “Twins” while also looking at the many scandals which rocked the various cast members.
Stephen has another tale from the dark side of Asian cinema, this time looking at the actress Bai Jing, plus podcast recommendations, 2019 releases much more!!

Further Viewing

Mr. Vampire
Rigor Mortis
Diary
Beyond Our Ken

Shoutouts

The Feminine Critique
Cinema Recall
Forgotten Filmcast
Exploding Helicopter
Simplistic reviews
French Toast Sunday
Blade Licking Thieves
That’s Weird
Debatable

Listen To The Show

Itunes
Podomatic
Spotify
That Moment In


Thanks to Asian Cinema Film Club for joining us with this fun choice! Be sure to check out their podcast every month to see which films they choose to review and expand your knowledge of Asian Cinema! Remember to give them a follow and check out their other episodes

To see the full list of blogathon entries, you can find it HERE.

Double Feature: The Vow (2012) & Who Gets The Dog (2016)

Moving on to wrap up the Valentine’s Marathon (but not officially listed there) is the next double feature for V & W selection. The first is The Vow, a movie that I’ve had on the Netflix list for a really long time and Who Gets the Dog that I have no idea what its about but then I liked Ryan Kwanten from True Blood.

Let’s check it out!

The Vow (2012)

The Vow

Director: Michael Sucsy

Cast: Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams, Jessica Lange, Sam Neill, Jessica McNamee, Wendy Crewson, Tatiana Maslany, Scott Speedman

A car accident puts Paige in a coma, and when she wakes up with severe memory loss, her husband Leo works to win her heart again. – IMDB

The Vow probably seems like a movie that is exactly up my alley seeing as I do enjoy Nicholas Spark films and such. However, something about  The Vow didn’t really work and that has to be with a few factors. The first is that the establishment of Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) was a bit rushed in the beginning  and never had the development that made their relationship really worth anything to feel connected to. The second factor is that a lot of the characters were very unpleasant to watch and very cliche characters. Paige’s parents, played by Jessica Lange and Sam Neill were about as predictable as it can get as the parents that had their own plans for their daughter and took advantage of the fact of Paige’s amnesia. At the same time, the biggest issue was that Rachel McAdams’ character was really annoying to watch which is probably the biggest issues if you can’t even cheer for the couple in question.

However, there is one redeeming factor and actually in that time frame of movies, an unexpected factor that worked and that is the fact that Channing Tatum had something of a cookie cutter roles and surprisingly, this one stepped out of it, which is a pleasant surprise. At the same time, Leo’s character was written the best and the character that I remotely cared about and wanted him to succeed and felt bad for him whenever things didn’t go his way.

Overall, The Vow was pretty meh. I didn’t really enjoy it a lot and don’t plan on watching it again. I’m usually pretty lenient on these films but this one felt pretty boring, and things don’t get more formulaic than when I even predicted the exact dialogue a few times.

Who Gets the Dog (2016)

who gets the dog

Director: Huck Botko

Cast: Ryan Kwanten, Alicia Silverstone, Randall Batinkoff, Matt Ryan, Devin Bethea, Rachel Cerda, Amy J. Carle

A couple going through a divorce squabble over custody of their beloved dog. – IMDB

I’m going to be honest that I didn’t have any high hopes for this one. I wanted to watch it for one person, which usually never ends up being a good reason. Who Gets the Dog is fairly predictable in general. Alicia Silverstone and Ryan Kwanten lead this film and its about them fighting over custody over their dogs. Things get pretty over the top and ridiculous. However, its pretty expected how its all going to end because it never feels like these two are separated because they dislike each other. Movies with dogs involved in relationship always tend to have this likeable advantage. There isn’t a lot to criticize here or compliment either. It didn’t feel like a lot happened and then hours after the film, it already feels like its fading. To be fair, the movie has some fun factors even if it takes a bit far sometimes. There are things that don’t exactly work but then its still fairly harmless.

I’m going to just keep this short. Its nothing impressive and yet nothing feels like they did anything particularly bad. Its an average movie: predictable and cliche. The dog played a decent part here. It’s not something that I’d preferably go back to watch but then I don’t feel horrible about seeing it either. Its just forgettable. What else can I say? The movies that are forgettable and indifferent towards are the hardest to write about.

That’s it for this double feature!
Its a very meh romance pairing.
Have you seen either of these films? Thoughts?

My Weekly Adventures: Hangouts, Gaming & Podcast Guest

Welcome to the next Adventures! Its been a bit quiet on my end to be honest. Well, kind of. To be fair, the weather’s been pretty weird and then work’s been in its crazy phase. Still, we managed to get some time to hang out with friends, check out an event and pretty much wrapped up some stuff over here while to try relatively calm about everything. At least my few days staycation is just around the corner so I’m ecstatic for it. Can’t wait!

Dinner: Korean BBQ at Mon Ami

As a replacement for the monthly Battle of Ingredients and to compromise for a busy schedule (and my incredibly messy house that I didn’t have time to deep clean for guests), we decided to head out for a dinner out. The final decision came down to Mon Ami Brossard for All You Can Eat. Its a pretty good deal as it includes a great deal more than just Korean BBQ. It was pretty good but as I was on the verge of getting sick again, I stayed a little further from BBQ food and loved that I could get Bibimbap and a ton of dumplings. Its pretty fun and we had nice chats. Time with friends is always such a great way to stay sane and get in a ton of laughs and good times in general.

Montreal Joue 2019

Montreal Joue 2019

The 7th annual Montreal Joue Festival is happening right now. It has a variety of game-themed events on its program. For myself, the one that interests me most is their video games festival which was held at Marche Bonsecours. Its been a go-to spot for gaming events lately. Overall, there was a lot of rinse and repeat games that I had seen in last year’s various events (but then, I go to almost 90% of gaming events in Montreal so its inevitable). However, it was nice to catch up with some games that have been on radar especially those in development for a while and finally see that they are all getting a release date. The game above is an upcoming mobile game called Feathers of Time which have had my attention for a while. I’ll be doing a recap on it in a few days over on the Game Warp blog (and That Moment In).

Valentine’s Marathon Officially Done

Valentine's Marathon

I know that technically there are like 4 movies that I need to post and they will go up soon by the end of the weekend (hopefully). I need to power through some more of the films to get them watched. However, after watching two great films, the remaining ones are looking a like lackluster. Haha! I’m just kidding…I’ll get to it. However, Valentine’s Marathon dragging further than February is not something I’d like to do. So I’m cutting it off. You will see this format again probably for next year. Its one that I’m enjoying and plan on doing on various months of the year just with more creative themes and maybe not a specific genre.

However, Valentine’s Marathon was pretty great. I achieved the goal of taking movies off My List on Netflix and also managed to discover some pretty fantastic movies. There was a lot of average movies but great films are made everyday so the idea that some showed up is already great. The entire Valentine’s Marathon reviews is updated HERE! Check it out if you think you may have missed any of the reviews.

Asian Cinema Film Club Podcast

I joined Elwood and Stephen over at Asian Cinema Film Club on their podcast to talk about 2012 Hong Kong film, The Bullet Vanishes. They were gracious enough to let me choose and it was a nice discussion we had about it. I never get enough chance to talk about Asian Cinema especially Hong Kong films that I always accept their invite. Plus, any chance to talk about my favorite celebrity Nicholas Tse is one that I won’t turn down. It was super fun as always. Give it a listen and hope you enjoy! Remember to follow them HERE if you haven’t already.

Cute Kitty Pic

That’s it for this Weekly Adventures!
I promise the next one will be a bit more colorful 😉
What adventures have you had?

Valentine’s Double Feature: This Is Not What I Expected (2017) & Us and Them (2018)

Third before last double feature in this Valentine’s romance double feature theme. I’m starting to think about when to do another themed alphabet month because it was just so much fun. Not sure what to do or what theme would be interesting enough. Maybe an international film theme, which would open up more genres. Any suggestions.

Moving onto the T & U selections. Talk about international films: I ended up choosing a Zhou Dongyu double feature and a Chinese film double feature and coincidentally, because its such a rarity in my movie watching life: a double 5 star rated films as well. All around an awesome time which had one feature that gave me a ton of laughs and fun and the second that gave me all kinds of emotions and some tears. If nothing else, these two films show that China is an upcoming force to put on our radars, especially with Netflix acquiring some as Originals.

Let’s check these out!

This Is Not What I Expected (2017)

this is not what i expected

Director: Derek Hui

Cast: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Dongyu Zhou, Yi-zhou Sun, Ming Xi, Kuo-Chu Chang, Tony Yo-ning Yang, Chiling Lin

An obsessive CEO of a company meets a ragged chef by chance. They are drawn closer together because of their love for delicacies, yet their personalities clash big time. – IMDB

Romantic comedies are a dime a dozen. Honestly, the Hong Kong (can’t say for China because I haven’t seen enough films to comment on it) landscape doesn’t really have any ground-breaking films in this regard. No one sits down to enjoy a great romantic comedy because its just generic. This Is Not What I Expected might not be anything ground-breaking in its formula because the course of events are quite predictable and generic, what it does do is for the first time (to my knowledge) dive into a screwball comedy style. Its quirky and hilarious. There are contrived events and things that get way out of proportion where its impossible to imagine any of it actually be accepted normally, but then there is a point in film that we find a line between reality and challenging its limits and something about the charm of This Is Not What I Expected hits it perfectly. Its been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a film and felt so fulfilled and happy about it all the way through. Not to mention, the movie also is right up my alley as it has a lot of artistic shots of food and cooking.

The main reason is its main leads. For one, Takeshi Kaneshiro is a fantastic actor and he has been in many films. However, it may be the first time he’s done a role that feels so serious but at the same time, so hilarious because of his expressions. It definitely isn’t a frequent type of role for him and this feels so refreshing to watch. At the same time, she is opposite the younger Dongyu Zhou who is a rather popular Chinese actress and truly excels in this type of role. She has this out of control nature and yet there is something so genuine about even the most absurd things that she does and yet it makes her quite adorable as well.

Us and Them (2018)

Us and Them

Director: Rene Liu

Cast: Boran Jing, Dongyu Zhou, Zhuangzhuang Tian

During the hectic chunyun (aka Chinese New Year) period, 2 strangers travelling home meet on the train. – IMDB

Us and Them is a Netflix Original and it tells a wonderful love story. Its quite reminiscent both in color palette and plot of a story like Blue Jay and One Day (the book, not sure how the movie is structured), except this story has much more context as we see a colorful past of Xiao Xiao (Dongyu Zhou) and Jian Qing (Boran Jing) from how they met to how they got together and the conflict that drove them apart. Ten years later, as they meet again and each in their different phase in life, how they have changed and how they face each other. Perhaps the story itself isn’t very unique but its honestly in the details as we see why their present is in black and white and their past in color. Especially with the background music as well as the artistic shots and structure of some of the scenes. Its hard to imagine that this is a directorial debut of Rene Liu who is an accomplished singer and actress but the first time taking the helm of the director.

However, true credit goes to how the characters are developed in each phase of their life. There is a deep knowledge of them as they change and grow over the years. It is a genuine relationship and progression that makes them so real. At the same time, the story isn’t just about their romance but also pulls in masterfully a second plot line related to family. The movie extends itself the entire way through the end credits as they pull in some real people who write messages to their past loves and then an ending scene which talks a lot about the message behind this movie being in telling those you love them (whether lover or family) before you lose the chance to and letting the regrets hang in the air. Just like the tagline of this movie which translates to: “After, we had everything except each other.” Its both a heartwarming film for a part of it and yet such a heartbreaking film that ends up being bittersweet as well. Just like Xiao Xiao and Jian Qing reflect on themselves and their relationship, the movie will end and made me reflect on a few things as well. Us and Them is a beautiful movie both in cinematography, soundtrack, character building and story. Its full of style and so very unique because its been pieced together so well.

This double feature is the absolute highlight of not only this marathon but probably the past while of films I’ve seen.
Have you seen This Is Not What I Expected or Us and Them? Thoughts?

Valentine’s Double Feature: Secret (2007) & The Space Between Us (2017)

Its been a while since I’ve continued on the Valentine’s Netflix Alphabet marathon! Its getting dangerously close to the end of the month and I still have a good few movies to get through. At this point, it might spill into the beginning of March. Either way, I said that I’d finish it so I will. Due to the missing X selection later on, I have chosen to do two S selections! This is the last change to the alphabet marathon. Surprisingly though, these two are both teen romances and have some unique-ish idea/concept.

Let’s check it out!

Secret (2007)

Director (and writer): Jay Chou

Cast: Jay Chou, Lun-Mei Kwai, Anthony Wong, Kai-Syuan Tzeng, Ming-Ming Su, Devon Song

Ye Xiang Lun, a talented piano player is a new student at the prestigious Tamkang School. On his first day, he meets Lu Xiao Yu, a pretty girl playing a mysterious piece of music. – IMDB

Jay Chou’s directorial debut sees him both as the writer of the original story and also acting in the film. From Initial D, its already not high expectations in the Jay Chou acting but Jay Chou is a creative individual and a very musical person so its no surprise to see that he has injected a musical element to this story. The pity of this film goes to Netflix categorizing its subgenre that ruins the twist of the story making it much easier to guess. The ending is somewhat of a headscratcher and feels a bit flawed from what the whole logic behind the situation was, the story itself had its charm. The first is the setting that its done, bordered by water, the school grounds and the more classical building. The second is its characters, including Jay Chou who wrote in a character that truly matches himself. Its probably the perk of being the writer of the original story.

secret 2007

On the off-chance that you aren’t watching this through Netflix, I’m going to keep this spoiler free as much as possible. While this movie seems a lot like your average teen movie with the female character having some ailment, there is a much more light-hearted sort of appeal to this mostly with its added twist. Using music as a medium is a really nice touch here. With the subgenre that it tackles, there are some little logic issues and flaws but it also has this fantasy element that adds a little something extra.

As I mentioned before, Jay Chou writes a character very suitable for himself therefore he does a decent job. Its really his romantic interest, Lun-Mei Kwai that takes a lot of credit here. Her personality reflects Xiao Yu’s character a whole lot whether its her little movements or when she’s happy or sad. The chemistry between them spark up some nice little moments that make us truly root for this pairing. However, in a movie full of young actors and actresses, there is no doubt that Anthony  Wong stands out the most playing the father of Jay Chou’s character. He has this vibrancy and his character while seemingly not very significant in the beginning, ramps up quite the significance by the end.

The Space Between Us (2017)

the space between us

Director: Peter Chelsom

Cast: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman, Carla Gugino, BD Wong, Janet Montgomery

The first human born on Mars travels to Earth for the first time, experiencing the wonders of the planet through fresh eyes. He embarks on an adventure with a street smart girl to discover how he came to be. – IMDB

I’m not exactly understanding all the hate that this movie seems to get via the different site that I’ve looked at. To be honest, this movie is right up my alley. For one, it has an incredible cast, at least I’m a big fan of everyone here. Then it has this whole sci-fi premise of space and Earth. The idea behind the story is pretty nice as well. There are some glaring similarities to a lot of other movies, the one that I thought of first was Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart (Review), an animated film that I love a whole lot. To see competent young actor and actress like Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson take over this pairing just warmed my heart because they are both constantly on my radar.

With that said, the music here is fantastic. The story here is a bit thin on the character development side of things and focuses on some cheesy teen romance thing, which worked for me because somehow these two have a good bit of chemistry and some really nice scenes. Plus, the whole fish of water thing always makes me feel incredibly entertained especially how they wrote up Asa Butterfield’s character even if he falls into those tropes of having some weakness to him but the fact that its because he’s born on another planet really makes it unique in its own way.

On top of that, you get Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino in this film who truly add quite a bit to the film in their roles. Its quite the adventure to see the whole chase from one thing to the next. There is romance but also a great deal of adventure that is where the bonding of the characters happen. Britt Robertson does play a very similar role to a few roles she’s done where she is a teen that doesn’t fit into the life that she is from. The key question here that is asked is “What is your favorite thing about Earth?” I think its a valid movie that uses this story to ask a deeper question about appreciating the things that we have around us that we take for granted. There are many layers to the story. Sure, it has its faults and there’s a ton of cheese and its fairly predictable but there’s also a lot of fun and adventurous moments here that work. Plus, it doesn’t take the normal teen romance type of bittersweet ending so I’m all for that.

That’s it for this double S feature for Valentine’s romance!
Both movies that have flaws but that I found a lot of enjoyment from!
Have you seen Secret or The Space Between Us?

Ultimate 2000s Blogathon: 2046 (2004) by The Stop Button

Its already the second week of the Ultimate 2000s Blogathon. The first guest this week to drop by over here is Andrew from The Stop Button. The Stop Button was started in 2004 focus in film blogging. Over there, you can check out many different segments and film reviews. Its a site that you will definitely something that you will enjoy reading about all kinds of films. With that said, Andrew takes us to check out a unique film, 2004’s romantic fantasy/drama Hong Kong film 2046.


2046

2046 (2004)

2046 is a very strange sequel. Because it’s most definitely a sequel to In the Mood for Love. Tony Chiu-Wai Leung and Lam Siu Ping are playing the same characters, a few years after that film. But the way writer and director Wong deals with the previous film and its events… he intentionally… well, I’m not sure if distorts is the right word, because it works out perfectly, but he delays it. 2046 is a sequel to In the Mood for Love, but it’s also a sequel to itself. The film starts in the mid-1960s with Leung moving home to Hong Kong from Singapore. Well, actually, wait. It starts in 2046, a CGI megalopolis with a train and some narration about riding the train and trying to leave 2046. Like it’s a place.

2046 also has Hong Kong significance—when the British “gave” Hong Kong back to China in 1997, the Chinese said Hong Kong would stay the same way for fifty years. So 2046. Of course, it’s also got a significance to In the Mood for Love. But back to the future for a moment. There’s some love sick guy on the train. He wants to leave 2046. His narration also refers to Love, even though nothing else does.

So all the coincidences collide for Leung—mid-sixties Hong Kong had some significant unrest and Leung spends his time sitting it out, dreaming of the future and writing a serial called… 2046 in a hotel room 2047, which he took because 2046 wasn’t ready yet. Leung brings a litany of nightclub friends with benefits affairs home while musing on the goings on around him at the hotel. Faye Wong is the owner’s older daughter, in love with Japanese guy Kimura Takuya. Her dad (Sum Wang) doesn’t approve. Leung distantly watches the heart attack and incorporates it into his stories, which is good since Kimura plays the story’s protagonist in the future stuff. Leung’s also got to fend off Sum’s younger daughter, Dong Jie, who’s too young.

Because even though Leung is supposed to be a casual sex addict, charming the ladies by night, moping about his previous heartache through his writing, there’s got to be a line. And Wong, director, tests it from time to time. It’s a good narrative hook and only there because we still need to like Leung for later, because later is going to get worse before it gets better. Leung narrates the film–eventually even the future stuff–and it’s a very controlled narration. Wong, writer and director, doesn’t want to show too much. Like Wong, actress, appearing for an almost cameo before disappearing, just like when the film opens on Leung and mystery woman Gong Li to set up the Hong Kong homecoming. Wong, writer, is delaying certain things but for very good reasons, which aren’t clear until the end of the second act.

Because it’s not just Leung’s story; there’s also a second story-in-the-story, which Leung writes for writing partner and lovesick buddy Faye Wong for a while in the middle. It’s got a full narrative arc for future guy Kimura and even future Faye Wong. And that narrative arc is later going to matter for Leung and the film. It’s an exceptionally complicated narrative structure. Wong, writer, fractures the narrative in a lot of major ways, sometimes technically surprising ones (but the surprise isn’t the right reaction because they’re inevitable). But he lays out this always forward layer too. For the viewer, who is watching the events of Leung’s life—with tangents—but seeing Leung’s reaction to those events. Macro-reactions, not micro. So very deliberate plotting.

2046 has more than its share of “why is Wong doing this” head-scratchers, but they’re always the exact right move. Because while Wong, director, is keeping with Leung in the present, experiencing new events, Wong, just writer, needs to move the plot in peculiar directions. The film’s got these multiple, dense narrative tense layers and Wong, writer, needs to move between them sometimes rapidly, sometimes not. Wong, director—and with great editing from William Chang and music from Umebayashi Shigeru—has to figure out a way to trigger these movements stylistically. It’s gorgeously done.

The most drastic of the three big narrative shifts is someone I can’t believe I got 700 words into a post about 2046 and haven’t yet—Zhang Ziyi. She’s Leung’s first significant love interest. Meaning she falls in love with him and he treats her like shit.

Remember when I said it was important to like Leung? It’s when he breaks Zhang’s heart, which isn’t really a spoiler because it’s almost still first act stuff. If you took out the future stuff, it’d be first act stuff. 2046—a sequel—is initially just about Leung’s really sexy love affair with his neighbor, Zhang. During that time period, Zhang gets a lot more to do than Leung. It’s not exactly from her perspective, but Wong, director, makes sure it’s real close.

So, in the second act, 2046 becomes a sequel to 2046’s first act, which was a sequel to In the Mood for Love. Only as things go on, it turns out 2046’s first act is a sequel to the end of the second act flashback, which is a sequel to In the Mood for Love. The more Wong, writer, reveals about Leung, either through the present action, flashback, or the future story stuff… the more the narrative distance changes. Narrative distance in this case also taking into account narrative sympathies; assumed intentions as far as Leung goes. 2046 isn’t a mystery, but Wong does almost structure it as one. Really, I guess, the more appropriate phrase would be a secret. 2046 is a secret and Wong is very careful about how he wants to tell it.

Of the three female leads, the best performance is Zhang. Faye Wong is really, really, really close but Zhang wins out. Then Gong. Gong it’s the role. She doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of time as the other two. Gong’s really is the extended cameo it seemed like Wong was getting. Only Gong’s cameo seemed like a really short one when it opened the movie. Because Wong, writer and director, is so forcefully deliberate.

So good.

Leung’s really good. He’s not as good as Zhang, Wong, or Gong. In a way, it’s not his place in the story. Where he’s protagonist. And everything revolves around him. He shouldn’t be overshadowing in that narrative, at least not the way Wong wants to tell it. It’s a very delicate, precise performance. Lots of nuance. It’s outstanding.

It’s just not as good as any of the lead actresses.

Carina Lau has a nice cameo, Wang has some good moments, Ping is hilarious. Not comic relief hilarious, just momentarily hilarious hilarious.

High nineties majority of the film is inside. Restaurants, the hotel rooms, occasionally cars. Quiet moments between characters either on their own or in crowds. There’s one standout party scene, which opens things up for a while, but the scene’s still focused on Leung. Again, the film is exceptionally precise.

Great photography from Christopher Doyle and Kwan Pung-Leung. Great production design from editor Chang. Great everything.

2046 movie probably even works better if you haven’t seen In the Mood for Love, which is a singular description—and, in this case, compliment—for a sequel.

But it’s still a very direct, very intentional sequel.

It’s magnificent.


A huge thanks to Andrew for reviewing this Hong Kong film! Remember to head over to give The Stop Button a follow HERE. Tomorrow, drop by to my co-host Drew’s Movie Reviews to see the next entry.

As always, you can find the full list of entries updated daily HERE!