Because this is Oakland Film Club’s 2nd event, and according to the Chinese proverb 好事成双, good things come in pairs, we are keeping with the theme of numerology. Coincidentally, this is Rob’s pick, and it’s been two weeks four days and a little over 6 hours since he’s returned from a trip to Hong Kong.
2046 (2004) is Wong Kar-Wai’s third film in a trilogy of Days of Being Wild (1990), In The Mood For Love (2000). One thing to note is that you don’t need to have seen the others to enjoy 2046. They are stories that succeed each other chronologically in time but are not continuations of a single plot-line so much as they are separate aspects of a single theme or aesthetic, and so the movies are more of a triptych, each of which can be appreciated alone, but which are intended to be juxtaposed.
I won’t say much about the film other than it’s simpatico with Susan Sontag’s argument in Against Interpretation that ‘in place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art’. In either the intellectual or sensual response, I think it’s useful to start with a short primer on Hong Kong’s history / dominant narrative. So, as time goes by:
- 1842 - China cedes HK to Britain after First Opium War. First wave of mass population into HK because of confusion in the mainland.
- 1898 - lease of HK and other islands to Britain for 99 years.
- 1937 - Sino-Japanese war dawning causes wave of migration from mainland to HK seeking refuge
- 1941 - Japan occupation of HK Dec 24 1941. HKD is voided, mass hunger, executions. By 1945 population shrinks from 1.6M to 600K.
- 1945 - HK liberation by joint Britain & Chinese military.
- 1946 - Britain re-establishes government. Following decade is a massive influx of population fleeing Nationalist / Communist civil war in China & the radical ‘Great Leap Forward’
- 1950s - Economic prosperity, textiles
- 1958 - Wong Kar-Wai is born in Shanghai
- 1963 - WKW and parents relocate to HK in response to the cultural revolution. His two siblings do not make the move before borders are shut, and remain in China.
- 1967 - Leftist riots in HK.
- 1970s - Hong Kong established as ‘Asian Tiger’, thriving economy
- 1984 - Britain & China agree on ‘1 country 2 systems’ for 50 years after the 1997 handover. HK to retain capitalist economy and democratic politics despite PRC sovereignty.
- 1989 - Tiananmen Sq. pro-democracy protests in Beijing violently suppressed by government.
- 1997 - handover, 1C2S in effect until 2047, when it is expected HK is a fully assimilated communist / Chinese state.
Take some time to think of the social / cultural context of HK in 2004.
I don’t have much to say about the film after the screening, because I don’t think there is much to be said in general; this is one of the reasons I like this set of films by Wong Kar-Wai. They screen like a memory more than a motion capture. While there’s a lot of layers of symbolism, I don’t think he’s engaging in criticism. At most he is illustrating tensions, psychological and political, local to Hong Kong and pervasive to humans. At the least, he is giving an impression of what it feels to be Chow and others through tones of alienation, hesitation, regret, indecision, inarticulateness, dignity, equanimity, intimacy, and confusion through which we as viewers overlay onto our own experiences. If he is making any claim at all it might simply be that he cannot comment on Hong Kong in general without commenting on the individual psychologies that comprise Hong Kong, and to take moral political stance reduces to emotional valences of an especially morally capricious population. The result, I think, is something that is almost totally sensual; the plot and cultural references, and even the themes (pedagogy, inconsequence, transience) seem for the most part background supports for communicating a perception rather than a message.
The phenomenological world is not pure being, but rather the sense that shines forth at the intersection of my experiences with those of others through a sort of gearing into each other, The phenomenological world is thus inseparable from subjectivity and intersubjectivity, which establishes their unity through the taking up of my past experiences into my present experiences, or of the other person’s experience into my own.
I know I shall be told this is incredible - incredible to be as ill-natured and stupid as I am; perhaps it will be added that it was incredible not to fall in love with her, or at least not to value her love. But why is it incredible? To begin with, I could no longer fall in love, because, I repeat, with me to love meant to tyrannize and hold the upper hand morally. All my life I have been unable to conceive of any other love, and I have reached the stage when I sometimes think now that the whole of love consists in the right, freely given to the lover, to tyrannize over the beloved.
You have navigated with raging soul far from the paternal home, passing beyond the sea’s double rocks, and you now inhabit a foreign land.