There's some intense emotional travel underway in Happy Together, the story
of two Chinese expatriates in Buenos Aires.
Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung star as lovers in a particularly stormy
relationship. The two men begin their love affair in Hong Kong and it ends
abruptly in Argentina; what's left is a mostly ugly breakup and then, finally,
Happy Together begins with a love scene but moves fast through endless
contempt-laden fights to a breakup.
As Lai Yiu-Fai, actor Leung narrates parts of the movie, musing on the
meaning of "starting over" and telling of how he became a doorman at a tango bar
in Buenos Aires.
His ex, Ho Po-Wing (Cheung) shows up one night at the tango bar with a
Though seeing his former lover makes him crazy, our hero eventually takes him
in and cares for him after Ho Po-Wing has been beaten badly by one of his
low-life friends. This central part of the movie is mostly domestic strife and a
sort of ballet of attraction and repulsion. Ho Po-Wing is endlessly obnoxious.
Lai Yiu-Fai drinks himself into oblivion on the job. The latter's only response
-- and a most telling one -- to his former lover's abuse is to hide the man's
Lai Yiu-Fai changes work, befriending a young man (Chang Chen) at the
restaurant where he is now employed. It is a friendship instrumental in Lai
Yiu-Fai's decision to return to Hong Kong. He thinks about his relationship with
his father and about a theft he wants to redress back home. As the film ends, he
is in Taipei on an automatic tram -- no driver -- on the day that Chinese leader
Deng Xiaoping dies in Beijing.
Happy Together is the newest film from Wong Kar-Wai, who was named Best
Director at Cannes this year. (Wong's Chungking Express was the first film
chosen for Quentin Tarantino's distribution imprint, Rolling Thunder.)
As in the past, Wong works with cinematographer Chris Doyle and the end
result is beautiful-with-an-edge. The film is visually unusual and rather
Political elements aside, Happy Together is a story of exile, particularly
The two leads are overwhelmingly lonely people busy being lonely together,
and only in going back to Hong Kong does Lai Yiu-Fai -- all by himself -- begin
to find a happiness that is connected to his past.
So maybe you can go home again.
Meanwhile, North American audiences subjected to the usual Hollywood
treatment (In & Out, for example) of homosexuality may appreciate the
realism of Happy Together