Happy Together

Happy Together


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Rules? What they? Wong Kar Wai (Chungking Express, Fallen Angels) makes his own. And then ignores them.

Filmed partially in black-and-white, with three separate, occasional narrative voices, the plot is dysfunctional. It doesn't go anywhere. Depends on what you mean by "any". Ho (Leslie Cheung) and Lai (Tony Leung) are Hong Kong tourists on the cheap in Argentina. They are also lovers, who break up the same time as their car. Lai finds work as doorman at a tango bar in Buenos Aires. Ho becomes a prostitute.

After Ho is seriously hurt in an assault, Lai takes him into his tiny one-room apartment. As he recovers, Ho attempts to seduce Lai back into a physical relationship. Lai won't have it. They bicker and fight. Lai moves jobs, ending up as a dishwasher in a restaurant, where he meets Chang (Chang Chen), a young Taiwanese, whose gentle manner attracts him. Ho, meanwhile, bored and broke, goes back onto the streets. Lai doesn't know this for certain, but the signs are there and it's enough to create further ructions.

Kar Wai avoids cultish gay stereotyping. No one mentions AIDS. Sentimentality is thrown off the train, although self-pity has one private moment when tears do fall. This is cutting edge loneliness, the darkness at the edge of despair.

Technically the film rides the wild highway. Kar-Wai races his camera like a Yamaha, using hand-held to drive the eye of the audience into the soul of pain. The title is ironic, of course. Lai is depressive and Ho incapable of constancy. Both are doomed to lives of wandering hope, fed on cigarettes, take-aways and quart bottle of liquor.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Exploration of the breakdown of a gay relationship.
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Director: Wong Kar Wai

Writer: Wong Kar Wai

Starring: Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung, Chang Chen

Year: 1997

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Argentina / Hong Kong

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