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Yiu-Fai and Po-Wing arrive in Argentina from Hong Kong and take to the road for a holiday. Something is wrong and their relationship goes adrift. A disillusioned Yiu-Fai starts working at a tango bar to save up for his trip home. When a beaten and bruised Po-Wing reappears, Yiu-Fai is empathetic but is unable to enter a more intimate relationship. After all, Po-Wing is not ready to settle down. Yiu-Fai now works in a Chinese restaurant and meets the youthful Chang from Taiwan. Yiu-Fai's life takes on a new spin, while Po-Wing's life shatters continually in contrast. Written by
Perry Yu <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Just when you thought that you knew everything about Hong Kong cinema or about romantic adventures in film, director Kar Wai Wong steps forward and eliminates all boundaries. Transforming your typical picture of a straight couple and violently handing us the relationship of Yiu-fai and Po-wing using untraditional cinematography is only scratching the surface of this picture. If you found yourself shocked by the opening sequence or annoyed by the drastic image of the film, then you definitely are not a film junkie. This movie had everything a cinephile would desire like strong characters, a non-linear story, and the brazen truth about modern society's relationships. This was more than just a gay film, but instead a story about emotions and loves, coupled with all the turmoil that surrounds it. It is ironic that the title of the film is Happy Together, because it completely challenges the true themes. It is about love, but about the difficulties that surround a dying relationship. From the visual opening to the amazing use of several different cinematography techniques, Happy Together may not suit everyone, but to this film junkie it opened a new door in Hong Kong cinema.
This film would not have worked if it weren't for the apparent brilliance of director Kar Wai Wong. While I have been impressed with his other films like In the Mood for Love and his work on the BMW series, The Hire, this film literally blew me out of the water. To begin, the opening sequence. If this very sexual opening doesn't set the tone for the rest of the film, I don't know what will. I was shocked, disturbed, and on-edge the entire time. I didn't see the love between our two characters at all in the beginning, but that was because it was to show the destruction of their relationship. Then, Wong did several things that just impressed me and kept my attention focused on the film. First, he took these two vacationing men from Hong Kong and set them in a foreign city. So, not only was it uneasy to watch this relationship disintegrate in front of our eyes, but to be lost in a unfamiliar city only made it worse. Second, he focused the camera on only one of the characters (Yiu-fai) to enhance that sensation about Po-wing's indiscretions. Through Yiu-fai we felt the human emotions just boil through of having to see a love that only hurt. Finally, he continually changed the cinematography through different scenes. This was impressive because it only added more tension to our characters and themes. Two travelers lost in a foreign country, trying to patch a dying relationship, with a constantly changing cinematic style, was tough to watch but that was the theme that Wong wanted to capture. This is not your typical romantic picture, but instead it showcases the truth about two men that perhaps were not the greatest fit. Even when he throws in the waterfall element, it only adds to the overall theme. The waterfall, to me, represented the falling relationship. Beauty on the outside, a violent tendency as the water falls just like our relationship.
Wong successfully created this tension by hiring some of Hong Kong's best actors. They carried themselves with the greatest of comfort and control. I felt as if I knew these characters by the end of the film. I felt as if I had gone through a similar struggle as they did. These two men challenged the idea of "normal" relationships, yet kept their personas simple, human, and intense. You could not help but feel emotion for these two, even if you did not like the story. They kept the tones light when they needed to be, then brought you deep within the rabbit hole when the darkness erupted. The final scenes of this film are fascinating to watch, and I had to see them again. The downfall of Yiu-fai into a role similar to Po-wing was heartbreaking, yet stunning. Here we have two men who I thought were complete opposites from the beginning, yet somehow, to quote Wong, "Turns out that lonely people are all the same."
Finally, I cannot finish without saying that the cinematography was outstanding in this film. The use of black and white in the beginning and slowly bringing in the colors was breathtaking. This film was more than just actors working for a director, but instead a director creating art. Christopher Doyle bulls-eyed the tone of the film and brought forth an intense picture that only complimented Wong's work. It just impresses me to see a film, like Happy Together, where all the elements come together and work in unison. It is a rarity in today's Hollywood, but thankfully we have directors like Kar Wai Wong whom embrace it. From the beginning of the movie until the final scenes, Doyle challenges an brings together some of the most beautiful scenes in cinema, transforming the normal into the extraordinary.
Overall, this was a spectacular film. After I watched it the first time, I had to see it again, but didn't know if I could. Its emotional strength was so overwhelming that I had to stop myself. I couldn't watch these two brilliant actors tear my heart apart again. It was a sad film, it was an angry film, but most importantly it was a film about being lost in love. Those who may have enjoyed Lost in Translation, this would be a great film to match with it. While not structured the same, it does give us that feeling of being apart in a new world, struggling to get home or to discover one's self. Wong is one of the greatest directors in the world, and I cannot wait to open my soul to his work again. Brilliant film-making, determined and unmatched acting, coupled with the best cinematography this world has ever encountered! A must for everyone!
Grade: **** out of *****
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