Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Happy Together

Chun Gwong Cha Sit (Happy Together), 1997
Dir: Wong Kar-wai
December 1, 2009

The Turtles song aside (which is covered and played at the end of this film), this film is not really about being "happy together" or any reunions. The Chinese title literally means "exposure of something indecent." It's a pun or something, but it makes more sense. It really doesn't matter. This didn't need a title. "Gay Days of Being Wild" would have worked, but whatever. Nevertheless, this is really what I want from a WKW film. It's not quite Days of Being Wild (1990), but it's pretty close, and WKW's themes have matured to the point that make me spot them right away (lamps!). This started off really weird, but began to flow incredibly well near the end; the shots of the humongous Iguaza waterfall, acting as the torrent for characters that can't stop themselves, really resonate.

Ho (Leslie Cheung) and Lai (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) are lovers that have always had a volatile relationship, and in the hopes revitalizing it, take a vacation to Argentina. They run out of money though, and are forced into action in Buenos Aires to return to Hong Kong. Ho is basically Yuddy from Days, except that here he is gay, and the fact that Leslie Cheung was probably way more into dudes than girls makes his performance all the more believable and awesome. Lai has a more stable personality, and begins working at a tango bar to make money. Ho begins bringing other guys there (as a gay hooker?), presumably to make Lai feel like shit, and when Ho wants to start the relationship back up, Lai wants nothing to do with it despite being depressed.

But when Ho turns up at his door beaten up, Lai takes him in and begins to nurse him back to health. A semi-sedate Ho reminds Lai of what he liked about him the first place, and he later comments that these were his "happiest" moments with him. But the restless Ho can't stay down, even when Lai takes his passport, and things drift again. Lai, still depressed, bottles a guy at the Tango bar and get a new job in a kitchen. There he meets Chang (Chang Chen), a drifter from Taiwan who has a lot in common with him (including a vague disinterest in girls). They spend some time together, play soccer outside the kitchen, but Chang leaves once he gets enough money to go south so he can see the "end of the world."

Lai moves on from the kitchen to a slaughter house, and in his loneliness, finds himself picking up guys at public toilets and cruising gay theaters. He says that he never imagined that he would act like Ho, but "lonliness will drive you to anything." With Ho doing his restless thing, Lai decides to head back to Hong Kong after finally visiting Iguaza Falls. He stops in Taipei first to go to Chang's parent's noodle shop, where he steals a picture of him so he can remember him.

Again, WKW, in his own way, captures the pain and restlessness of modern relationships. Christopher Doyle's camerawork is like an extension of himself, every shot getting the meticulous detail it deserves, from black-and-white to off-focus, to the lush, slow motion that characterizes all these films. Complaining about the lack of plot or structure is completely missing the point. Let the film wash over you, like Lai at the Falls. It's worth it.


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