Happy Together [1989/I]

The expressionistic, stylized visual brilliance (courtesy of Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle) of Happy Together is 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 to Happy Together that rings true and real and less like an edition of The Honeymooners than 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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