Gay lovers Ho (Leslie Cheung) and Lai (Tony Leung) are en route to tourist spot Iguaza Falls in Argentina when they have a falling out. Ho walks out on Lai, who finds work in a Buenos Aires tango bar. There he sees Ho in the arms of another, and when Ho contacts Lei to resume the relationship he says he is not interested. However, when a badly beaten up Ho arrives at Lei's flat, he takes him in, but the relationship is still not working: Ho sees other men, and Lei resorts to stealing Ho's passport to keep him close at hand.
The expressionistic, stylised visual brilliance (courtesy of Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle) of Happy Together
is so breathtaking and enveloping it nearly detracts from this startling, queasy, despairing glimpse at a gay relationship gone amok. Director Wong Kar-Wai (Chungking Express
, Fallen Angels
) won the Best Director Prize at Cannes in 1997, surprising many; but on viewing the film it's easy to see why. The subject matter may not be the easiest to swallow--any relationship on the rocks sometimes gets dirty and pathetically disturbing--but there is a universality to Happy Together
that rings true and real and less like an edition of The Honeymooners
than isolation tinged with the embarrassment of intimacy. Ho (Leslie Cheung) and Lai (Tony Leung) have left Hong Kong for Buenos Aires. The journey is another in Ho's attempts to "start over". But their initial optimism is short-lived, and once they become dislocated strangers in this strange land it only further thrusts the two into their already co-dependent dark love affair. But like all crazy love, the trip through masochistic hell--from violence to apathy--leads to self-enlightenment, and Wong Kar-Wai's gorgeous, grasping film is true, tricky, difficult and emotionally wrought, aided by Hong Kong superstars Cheung and Leung, who contribute greatly to creating a work that is exceptional--and lump-in-throat brutal--in image, story and performance. --Paula Nechak, Amazon.com