Thursday, December 02, 2004

SEE: Happy Together (1997)

3 Reasons why I wanted to see this:

1. Directed by Wong Kar-Wai

2. Actor Tony Leung

3. Filmed in Argentina

Boy, did this movie make me nostalgic about Buenos Aires. I noticed little mundane details that are probably meaningless to those who've never been there, like the bus stop sign, the plates that food is served on, the way voices resonate because the buildings are all made of cement bricks. I recognized a few of the places that WKW used as the backdrop for his film. He mostly used the lesser-known neighborhoods of Bs. As. One particular neighborhood is Boca, which is a tourist attraction, but only one tiny part of it called El Caminito. The rest of Boca is poor and run-down and that's what you see in Happy Together.

And I appreciated the generous shots of the sky that WKW included. Argentina has THE most beautiful skies I've ever seen. I guess WKW noticed, too.

A gay couple from Hong Kong decide to vacation in Argentina in hopes of revitalizing their troubled relationship. Ho Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) is the pretty boy who steps all over his doormat boyfriend Lai Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung). While in Argentina, they hit another bump in their relationship and break up again for the n-th time. Yiu-Fai works various jobs to save up money to return to Hong Kong. Po-Wing, one day, shows up at his ex's tiny run-down apartment all beat up, and Yiu-Fai takes him back out of pity. Yiu-Fai tries to resist the charms of Po-Wing, not wanting to get into the vicious cycle of making and breaking up.

This film lacks much of a plot. It's merely a portrayal of a very dysfunctional relationship that anyone may relate to, gay or straight. The usual WKW themes of loneliness, isolation, and heartbreak are present in this film. I don't think WKW was trying to push some homosexual agenda. Happy Together does not endeavor to be some kind of beacon for gay cinema. You almost forget you're watching gay protagonists because the emotions depicted here are universal. Anyone can relate to the yearning for a faithful companion to love and be loved in return.

You can't talk about a WKW film without mentioning the technical aspects. The beginning is filmed in beautiful black and white. Bs. As. looks better in black and white. Then the rest is filmed in color but it's different than what you see in films today. I'm ignorant of the technical terms to describe it accurately but the closest description would be that it had the look of those old Super 8 films. And some parts of the film were overexposed, giving it that washed out look. And of course, the editing is always interesting, making the film visually engaging.

If gay love scenes really bother you then you best stay away from this flick because the two guys really go at it when the movie opens.

::4 stars::