Monday, December 7, 2009


I watched Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together for the first time last night. As you would expect from a Kar-Wai film set in Argentina and lensed by Christopher Doyle, it is exquisite to look at. Truly gorgeous. Even the scratchy, grainy black and white cinematography that fills the first act is hypnotic to watch. It has this wonderful look as if it was filmed in the 1960s Paris. That it's 1995 Buenos Aires is still a surprise since the entire film looks like it's from not only another era altogether, but another world.

However, I do have a major issue with the film and that is the character of Po-Wing as portrayed by Leslie Cheung. For a film about such beauty and the love for one man from another, the character of Po-Wing is hopelessly out of sync with the rest of the movie. It's not fun watching this sociopath do everything in his mite to destroy the life of Tony Leung's Yiu-Fai. I'm sure that's the "point" of the movie, but all it did to me was raise question's of Yiu-Fai. Why did he ever like Po-Wing in the first place? Since Kar-Wai doesn't include flashbacks of when these two were indeed "happy together" (if they ever were) and there's nothing shown within the film that explains what anybody could find attractive in Po-Wing, least of all Yiu-Fai. I can't help but find fault with how that character was portrayed as a one-dimensional screaming monster.

Like most Kar-Wai films the ending is sublime with the photograph of Chang and Leung plays it brilliantly. Leung is fantastic through the entire film actually and that scene with the tape recorder? Simply amazing. Doyle's cinematography is, again, some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. My favourite moment was actually the upside down view of Hong Kong. There was something to strangely moving about it, don't you agree? And the idea that Buenos Aires is some sort of kindred spirit to Hong Kong is a fascinating one. Kar-Wai has certainly done a good job in scouting locations in the Argentinian city that resemble the Hong Kong locations that he favours in his Asian-set films. B+


R-Co said...

Happy Together is one of my fav WKW films. I haven't seen it in a while (your post as inspired me to check it out again) but I remember when I first saw it I loved their relationship, how it played out as fractious. I think it was a great portrayal of how a relationship can turn kind of sour, but the participants stay within in. Some kind of fatalism. You don't see the back story because what is important is now.

It's a pity WKW and Chris Doyle don't work together anymore. I loved their creative partnership.

RJ said...

Oh my god! The scene with the tape recorder. Probably one of the best acted scenes ever.