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Happy Together (1997)

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Loneliness and Alienation

  • Jan 1, 2009
  • by
"Happy Together"

Loneliness and Alienation

Amos Lassen

Two young Asians, Yiu-Fai and Po-Wing arrive in Argentina from Hong Kong and start their holiday. However, something happens and their relationship turns sour. Yiu-Fai decides that he should return home and starts working in a tango bar so that he can buy a plane ticket. Suddenly Po-Wing appears and he is bruised and beaten. Even though Yiu-Fai shows empathy, he cannot enter into a romantic relationship with his friend. Po-Wing, unlike his friend, is not ready to settle down. After changing jobs, Yiu-Fai meets a young guy from Taiwan, Chang and his life changes again while Po-Wing is shattered.
Kar Wai Wong directed this little gem of a film about the nature of loneliness. It is a non-linear film that shows the truth about modern relationships. Here is a story about emotion and love and it challenges the title it was given. It is about those difficulties that surround a relationship on the skids. Alienation both within and outside of the relationship is what dooms it. In the beginning we see that the two young men cannot find equality or balance together and this leads them to despair. When Po-Wing had been ill and had to be cared for, their relationship thrived but as his health improved, Fai drew away from him and refused any attempt at intimacy. Now that Wing was well enough to do for himself, the balance of power between them shifted, Po-Wing slowly slips away from the guy he loved and entered the world of street hustling.
Each of the men are devastated by the loss of love. We sense the alienation between them as well as the alienation they feel in society. I am not sure that this is necessarily a gay film--the lead characters just happen to be gay but this is a story that can apply to anyone--loneliness is universal as is the melancholia that comes with it.
The actors are wonderful in their roles and we feel what they feel--making this not an easy film to watch. The film is basically a look at a couple falling in and out of love--their sexual identification does not matter. They guys are lost souls who are lonely and longing and lovelorn. Their escape to Argentina proves to be their undoing but it would have happened anywhere. Argentina physically represents their relationship--claustrophobic and oppressive, something that might have been beautiful yet becomes a symbol of escape.
What really makes this film so absorbing is the emotional authenticity. The director aimed at the heart and he hit his target.

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More Happy Together (1997) reviews
review by . August 10, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Two Chinese lovers drift around Buenos Aires, attempting to come to grips with a relationship that is clearly on the skids in this interesting and frustrating film `Cheun gwong tsa sit' (Happy Together) by the very talented Kar Wai Wong. On vacation from Hong Kong, Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung ) and Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) are presented in an obviously unhappy state, but we are not privy to the cause of their unhappiness. Yes, there is infidelity, there are outside attractions, and all of the `things' that …
About the reviewer
Amos Lassen ()
Ranked #210
I am an academic who reivews movies and books of interest to the GLBT and Jewish communities.   I came to Arkansas after having been relocated here due to Hurricane Katrina. I was living in … more
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The expressionistic, stylized visual brilliance (courtesy of Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle) ofHappy Togetheris 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 toHappy Togetherthat rings true and real and less like an edition ofThe Honeymoonersthan 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 codependent, caretaking 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
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DVD Release Date: October 19, 2004
Runtime: 97 minutes
Studio: Kino Video

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