There's such a thing as too much good movie. Exhibit A: Wong Kar-Wai's 2046, a film full of brilliant scenes and moments, and some of the most beautiful cinematography on cinema screens this year. A film in which almost nothing makes sense when put together.

I hardly know where to start with the plot, so bear with me: Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) is writing a story called "2046," about a futuristic place where people retreive lost memories. He was inspired by his memories of a certain hotel room 2046; the memory of this room drove him to another room 2046, the home of a woman named Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi). They have an affair, until his hatred of intimacy (or fear of commitment. Or love for another woman. Or...) drives him away... Wang Jingwen (Faye Wong), the pixieish daugheter of the hotel owner. Meanwhile, his personal life keeps intruding onto the plot of "2046" and it's quasi-sequel "2047." And if this weren't enough, he meets Su Lizhen (Gong Li), a gamble who shares the name of his One True Love (Maggie Cheung in a cameo).

That may seem like a lot of plotting running around, but none of it matters. In the best Wong Kar-Wai style, the film is really about moments and relationships, the tiny details of life. And those details are gotten really, really right, with marked consistency.

Where the film falls apart is in putting all of those details together. Broadly, there are four plotlines in the movie, and there are combinations that would work brilliantly, but not all four. The movie tends to bog down of it's own weight, especially around the 75-minute mark (it's over two hours in total); the Faye Wong and Zhang Ziyi plots don't complement so much as repeat each other. And the "2046" plot occurs much too late to have the impact it should. Of course, given the monumentally tortured history of this film (God knows how many completely different story ideas, espionage, the first delayed premiere in Cannes history), it's a triumph that the film has any coherency at all, however muddled.

This is the Ultimate Wong Kar-Wai film in much the same way as The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is the Ultimate Wes Anderson film: it is everything that defines the auteur run amok, as though no-one had any thought to forcing the director to observe such a thing as "restraint" or "discipline." As such, it is probably mostly interesting to the director's legion of fans. In fact, it might be a prerequisite that one already loves him; the film is a sort of sequel to In the Mood for Love, and much of the climax depends on a knowledge of that film's central relationship. There are also several references to Days of Being Wild, and while the film doesn't depend on them, they deepen its scope and meaning. Kind of like Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, only well written, directed, shot and acted.

And make no mistake - those things are all done very well. Tony Leung is perhaps more charismatic than he is a great actor, but his work with Wong Kar-Wai is certainly his career peak. Zhang Ziyi gives the best of her performances to reach this country. And the cinematography, by no less than three DPs (including, of course, longtime wkw collaborator and celluloid god Christopher Doyle), is simply amazing to see on film. (I had previously seen the film on a imported DVD, and it's like watching two completely different movies). It might make no sense at all, but 2046 is the most extraordinary piece of nonsense in a theater this year.