Happy Together doesn't quite have the magnetic charge of In The Mood For Love, made three years later in 2000. In a way it is the opposite, as in the earlier film the couple are very restrained and tend to be formal with each other, both being married to other people. Here the intimacy is full-on and the couple tend to keep breaking up and getting back together, with much shouting. In its volatlie nature their relationship lacks all the poise of the earlier setup, compounded by a sense of randomness in the Buenos Aires setting. Somehow Hong Kong was more magical, and harmony could be felt in all the components of the film, right to the close-up filming style in the small living spaces, that became places of inner transport. The social life of the city was woven into the love story in a tight mix. In Buenos Aires there is a similar fixation with wallpaper, kitchen tiles and the strange spaces that open up, often seen against tangos on the soundtrack. It is atmospheric and potent, but the mood swings of the central couple, Fai and Po-Wing, seem rather willed. There is an emptiness and slight feeling of indulgence, particularly in Po-Wing. Perhaps he has difficulty accepting his gayness and so goes around creating trauma for himself; Tony Leung manages to project a more solid character, who in turn doesn't always seem able to respond to his lover's spontaneous embrace. Leung was very good in the earlier film, but is just as convincing here. As is Leslie Cheung - the problem certainly isn't with the acting. The cinematography by Christopher Doyle is outstanding, but in the end the relationship seems too destructive to give the pleasure the viewer might otherwise feel. Lan Yu by Stanley Kwan strikes me as a much more satisfying gay love story from a Chinese director; it moved me in a way this one never quite does, which partly stems from the fact that it has a story, where this one drifts. In the latter part Fai strikes up a friendship with a fellow younger kitchen worker that actually improved the tone of the film, I found - just to get away from so much psychological torment comes as a relief ...
I'm not sure why I enjoyed this film. There is no plot to speak of, it focuses on a couple from Hong Kong who are in Argentina and the breakdown of their relationship. That said, anyone who has ever been in a relationship (gay or otherwise) will empathise completely with this film.
Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung manage to portray one of the most realistic relationships ever committed to celluloid. The acting is so natural, that at times I forgot I was watching a film, I was so immersed in their performances.
This is the first Wong Kar Wai film I have ever saw and I found the directing style a bit jarring at first but soon found that it fit in with the story excellently.
I would definitely recommend this film to anyone who loves proper cinema. Give it a go, you won't be disappointed.
Won kar wai's films seem to become more pessimistic and heartfelt the longer he goes on. Fortunately for us viewers this means that they also become more beautiful and heartbreakingly moving than ever. The film deals with the destructive relationship between two gay lovers (Tony Leung and Leslie Chung) as they try to keep alive their ailing love for each other by travelling to Beunos Aires to "start again", but only leads to their gradual but inevitable parting. With excellent performances from the two leads and stunning photography from Christopher Doyle, this is a must see for all Won Kar Wai fans, and in fact, for anyone with an appreciation of world cinema. Higly recommended!
A bold statement, but as a fan, student and professor of Asian film for more than a decade, I can say without reservation that this is amongst the finest films I have ever seen. The relationship between Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung is universal - regardless of age, race or sexual orientation, you will find yourself drawn to these stunning characters, which are without equivocation the finest roles played in the lengthy careers of these two Hong Kong superstars. I rarely gush over a movie so, but Happy Together deserves every word of praise and more. Deeply moving and superbly acted, it features Kar-Wai's most clever metaphorical writing and directing, and it is surely Christopher Doyle's finest hour. Though not the hit in Europe or the US that it could have been with the proper marketing and distribution (that was left for In The Mood For Love, an equally beautiful if less heartstopping feature), this film is a true classic and deserves a shot from all who love the cinema. Some may find it lacking, but I cannot picture a finer film - and since it is my profession to picture exactly that, I hope it is high praise indeed.
I heard about this film from somewhere which I cannot remember for the life of me, but I think I saw the trailer and then was immediately drawn into the film. The cinematography creates an atmosphere of what the director thought Argentina was like. It is not wonderfully glossed-over with sparkling shots of the two men, quite the opposite - it shows them at their worst when they are with each other but it is through this, that I think, the two men come out at their best because this is the side of people we never see, and the fact it's coming out to both of them shows they have reached a very real level of intimacy. The main character 'fei' or 'yieu fei' is probably the more dominant character although he does end up indulging the other character 'wing' or 'bo wing' - who keeps leaving him and reappearing again throughout the film. From boredom to despair, to displeasure to illness (or injury) 'bo wing' always comes to 'yieu fei' and 'yieu fei' always takes him back. No matter how hard he knows it'll be when 'bo wing' will eventually leave, or how hard he has to work to keep him happy - he does it anyway. It is not in this that I think the greatest part of the film lies. Their dialogue which ultimately define the dynamics of their relationship is where I think the core of the magic of the film happens. In my opinion, being born from a half-Cantonese/Szechuanese background in Scotland I understand genuine Cantonese dialogue, culture and behaviour. This film provided just that, only between two gay men. I would not say that the dynamics were such as that between a man and a woman, but there is definitely a sense of one having power over the other. Although ironically, Bo Wing seems to have the most power has he's the one who seems to have the right to leave and come back whenever he wants. The dialogue is extremely, even overly, flip by British standards and everything they say to each other is extremely heavy-handed. They never say anything directly but prefer to show their feelings through what they're not saying and actions highlighted by the film. e.g. Bo Wing staring at Yieu Fei when he's sleeping. I am not saying that Cantonese people have a problem showing their feelings, but that this is the genuine way in which they share intimacy; in showing each other their best and worst parts without any social discipline to follow. It's hard to describe but even if you don't understand Cantonese you'll follow what I'm saying once you see the film. Although the bulk of the film was amazing in my opinion, with the complementary music at the background which seems to match the unhappy background exactly - either ironically or exactly, and also the great cinematography from the quotidian scenes of everyday life in Argentina to quotidian scenes of 'Yieu Fei' and 'Bo Wing' - I wasn't that happy with the ending. It felt a little contrived as almost all arthouse movies end unhappily and this just felt like it was following the norm. However it did make sense as 'Yieu Fei' always talks about going back, and the audience does understand why from the treatment he receives. Maybe I just wished for a happy ending as they seemed to share real intimacy you just don't find in most places these days.
This is a film by Wong Kar Wai (`My Blueberry Nights' and `The Grandmaster') made back in 1997. It has at its heart a very simple plot. Po-Wing and Yiu-Fai have travelled from Hong Kong to holiday in Argentina. Once there, their often volatile relationship takes a nose dive. Yiu-Fai ends up working in Buenos Aries trying to save enough money to get home and trying to forget the past.
Then Po-Wing comes crashing back into his life needing a lot of help after being beaten by his `sugar daddy'. He is taken in and cared for but Yiu-Fai has seemingly moved on emotionally and can not commit further. Things develop and as they do we see a relationship disintegrating - almost in slow motion.
This is an interesting film on many levels. First it is a very honest observation of a relationship (gay or otherwise) in its swan song and of the conflict of emotions that go with it. Also the way it has been filmed adds to the on screen emotion by shifting from monochrome to colour and adds to the feeling of loneliness and isolation that pervade the whole film. It is a film that needs bearing with though and the version I saw did seem a poor quality transfer (VHS to DVD maybe?) that said the quality of the film still managed to shine through.
Upon first watching "Happy Together" I was a little disappointed, particularly as I had watched In The Mood For Love  [DVD] previously and was very impressed with it right off the bat. However, on my second viewing I really changed my mind. The fact that "Happy Together" is a visually stunning film is obvious within the first twenty minutes, so no change of mind was necessary on that front. My initial problem was a feeling that style won out over substance and plot, however, after re-watching the film I had a change of heart and undoubtedly appreciated the film more the second time round. The performances are all very good and the film certainly doesn't pull any punches. I might not recommend it as a starting point to someone, as of yet, unfamiliar with Kar-Wai, perhaps favouring "In The Mood For Love" or Chungking Express  [DVD] instead. Nevertheless, I think this film is a really worthwhile and rewarding experience, even if, like me, it might take a couple of viewings to fully appreciate it.
I have been a fan of Wong Kar-Wai movies for a while and I am also a fan of the two actors who play the main characters. It is easy to dismiss this as a Chinese attempt to make a gay movie, but it is not as simple as that and with Wong Kar-Wai, it is never a simple story. The story is not about glamour and the characters are two regular guys from HK. What is special about this movie, isn't the director's choice to make a gay movie, but a movie where two people struggle to get what they want in a relationship. One is openly promiscuous the other is a stable kind of guy. The former is selfish and only wants the latter when he has run out of other choices. The latter struggles to find comfort in that relationship and in the end he finds happiness leaving the relationship altogether.
The movie is quite realistic and deals with the issues within relationships. Choices are hard, but you have to make them. Love is an ideal, but what will you do and sacrifice to remain in love and at what cost? There are a lot of unhappy relationships out there. Sometimes it is a matter if circumstances, but at the end of the day, you have to help yourself. These problems don't just exist in gay relationships, but also those of straight people.