Reviews: Inversions, 2046

The problem with break is that it means I have more time to read and watch things, which means I get behind on this.  Almost done with 2015, so my project of reviewing all the new things is just about over.  But for now, another twofer.

Inversions, by Iain M. Banks

Iain Banks is best known for his science fiction, oddly personal stories set in a cosmos starkly unforgiving, not to say amoral and at times inhuman (literally or figuratively).  Inversions is not one of those, however, but is a fantasy set some time after the fall of a great Empire, leaving warring kingdoms squabbling over the remnants with late-Medieval technology.  The title refers at least to the structure of the story, as Banks presents concurrent events from the perspective of members of two such courts.  However, I think the reference is supposed to go deeper than that – the story has layers – I am simply not sure how far.

I am inclined to consider this one of Banks’ better novels; it is also probably a good place to start for the reader curious about Banks but put off by his reputation, as his normal tendency to vulgarity (and depravity) is toned way down.  He may even suggest something like a moral.

2046, dir. Wong Kar-wai

I stumbled across this film by accident, trying to track down on YouTube the music of Hanyu Yuzuru’s recent phenomenal free skate, “Seimei” by Japanese composer Umebayashi Shigeru.  Various tracks he did for 2046 came up – and the full movie, which tells, in what is apparently Wong’s signature style, the story of some of Mr. Chow’s various affairs, over which the number “2046” seems to hang.  The Chow character, a journalist and writer, serves as narrator as he recounts his various misadventures and reflects on what love is, or could be.  I am not entirely sure whether to regard the film as attempting to be profound or at least “human”, or to see it merely an exercise in displaying pretty women in pretty dresses (or out of them but carefully covered up, in a plethora of sexual moments throughout the film).  At times Chow reminded me of Hemingway (either the author or his characters), of Hitchcock’s film of The 39 Steps, or of some of Le Carre’s work.  A very finely made film, and one I would not mind seeing again, if only to puzzle out its “message”.