The artist of dissolving cityscapes now turns to composing poetic elegies to the urban world that he feels once was and never will be again. If in In the Mood for Love Wong Kar Wai took daring leaps of imagination to place the rotting away of cities at the intersection of the death of personal desire and war and carnage then in 2046, notionally a sequel to In the Mood…, Mr Chow survives the decades following the 1960s and finds himself facing a new generation of urban technologies – human and material – that somehow retains the molecular intensity of pure desire itself. In between war and disease have eaten away at the crumbling facades of the city to create a new generation of human beings who see and think differently yet desire the proximity of human bodies as before. The dissolution of Mr Chow’s secret left forever in a hole in the wall of a Cambodian temple at the end of In the Mood… is followed in the sequel by his career as a profligate and promiscuous writer-journalist. Mr Chow has liaisons with women who will metamorphose in a different generation and decade into protagonists of Kar Wai’s earlier cinema. Here Kar Wai had used the combined intensities of kitsch and new visual machines to meditate upon human fate in times of perpetual motion and wayward desires in the dissolving cities of the 1980s and 1990s. The city dies because love cannot be expressed and it dies when it is expressed badly – people leave. In the end Mr Chang is left on the edge of a technological science fictive future where his desire has become a myth and fuels the cables that keep the infemotional grids of cybercities going, grids that create the mood for love in the year 2046.
The irony of course is that even the past of Kar Wai’s fantasy of the 1960s is recreated through the technologies of 2046. Probably, there is a truth in all of this. The past when sentiments could be expressed is best filmed through the technologies of the present; the materiality of cities and landscapes moves as if animated by a mind, expressive of the emotions of protagonists. But this same movement takes bodies away from cities, borne away by the intensity of unfulfilled desires, the energy freed up used to imagine new techniques of visualisation. Cities were a map of the human mind, its architectonics a trace of the twists and turns of the deepest human curiosity to explore the unknown. The city of In the Mood…has disappeared forever; left are the poses and sensuously real images of the past that might teach future surfers of the virtually real two or three things Kar Wai knew about love.