Ho Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) and Lai Yiu-fai (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), a couple from pre-handover Hong Kong, visit Argentina hoping to renew their ailing relationship. The two have a pattern of abuse, followed by break-ups and reconciliations. One of their goals in Argentina is to visit the Iguazu waterfalls, which serves as a leitmotif in the movie.
Cast & Credits
As with other Kar-wai films, it's always the cinematography that lunges at you. Typical of his style. I'd say that Happy Together is probably much more daring than his other films. Often overshadowed by In the Mood for Love and Chungking Express, Happy Together is both a happy and sad portrayal of romance. Yes, it's a love between two men. But instead of focusing on that aspect like other films do, it focuses more on their time together. It's cynical as much as it is positive. Kar-wai won Best Director at Cannes for a reason.
The film also pays tribute to classic noir style. But with a purpose. The black-and-white colors reflect their time apart. And gradually...color emerges. There's color when they rekindle their relationship or as they say "start over" again. The visuals speak as much as the story, as much as the actors. The aesthetics are also reminiscent of other Kar-wai elements -- cramped apartments, sudden close-ups, intense DOFs. But the colors are all retro. They're vibrant and intense. Add some exotic music to that. The setting and scenery are all beautiful. It's so so so appealing to the eyes.
Of course, we have Tony Leung Chiu-wai again. Yes, he won Best Actor for In the Mood for Love but I'd say Happy Together is his opus. It's a much more dramatic, challenging and intense character, he delivered in with more passion characters. He wants Po-wing (Leslie Cheung) but he can't show that but we still know he does -- that part is delivered very well. On the other hand, we have a charismatic Leslie Cheung here. He's able to deliver Po-wing's character with such rawness and explosion of emotions. Conflicted but at the same time very powerful. The chemistry between the two is undeniable.
The film is about intimacy. And it shows that. Chiu-wai and Cheung's acting all delivers that. In the cinematography, in the sounds, it shows all that. Even if Chiu-wai's character speaks in Cantonese while Chen's character speaks in Mandarin, it doesn't create a distance because it shows the understanding between the two. Happy Together is so underrated compared to its counterparts but it's also one of the most beautiful.
Oh Wong Kar Wai, you truly know our hearts and how to play with them and tear them apart into indistinguishable threads.
Happy Together, unfortunately overshadowed by Wong's other beautiful and worthy works like In the Mood for Love and Chungking Express, is a raw depiction of a volatile, chaotic, but passionate relationship of two men from Hong Kong. The film, outlined in a tone of melancholy and loneliness, follows the deteriorating relationship of Lai and Ho, two conflicting personalities that can't seem to find peace. Its not a comfortable watch, nor it is a romcom as its title may suggest.
As with any film by Wong Kar Wai, the cinematography is beautiful and worth re-watching for that alone. Also, Chang Chen is adorable and deserves more love, please watch it for him, please.