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Happy Together
1997; directed by Wong Kar-Wai

From the "isn't it ironic" file, Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together is perhaps one of the most dour films you're likely to ever see, concentrating on the jagged end of a relationship between two lovers. But in its' own way, the movie is also gloriously beautiful and truly one of the most unique experiences put to celluloid.

Happy Together    Happy Together

Shot over several months in Argentina with a loose story mostly improvised day-to-day by Wong, Happy Together centers on Lai (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) and Ho (Leslie Cheung), who are Hong Kong expatriates who left the area before the handover to China and looking to make a fresh start. The change in locale really does nothing to improve their relationship. They soon fall into the same doomed pattern of abuse and absolution, with Lai finding solace at the bottom of a bottle and Ho turning to cheap one night stands with other men.

Happy Together    Happy Together

Much of the criticism of Happy Together keys on the film's somewhat unconventional narrative structure. Most notably, some writers have pointed out what they see as a lack of a coherent story. To some extent, I will agree with that, since elements of the story come and go in an almost dream-like state, and several scenes almost seem to have been placed in randomly, with no real connection to the main plot. Simply put, if you're a viewer looking for clear-cut answers and something that is straight-forward and easily digestible, Happy Together is probably not the movie for you.

Happy Together    Happy Together

But I feel that the nebulous and fuzzy nature of the story actually contributes to the strength of the movie. After all, can one really explain love, much less how it can lead people down destructive paths despite the fact they know they're in an unhealthy relationship? Much like Wong's other movies, there is at the end a sense that he wasn't really trying to provide any answers into those sorts of mysteries, but rather just providing a source of meditation. This sort of film-making is certainly polarizing for viewers, but for those who are into Wong's style, this is one of his better films and well worth watching.


As of this date (August 2010) Happy Together is currently streaming on instant Netflix, and also available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Amazon.

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