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Happy Together (Wong Kar-Wai, 1997)

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We don't have a thread for this movie--not one that I could find, anyway--and, while it may be too early to start lobbying for its eventual inclusion on the list, I thought that (since the movie has been seconded), it would be as well to start a thread for discussion once lobbying gets underway.

I'm a fan of this one. It's not my favorite Wong Kar-Wai film--but it's very likely my third favorite. Both Tony Leung and the late Leslie Cheung give powerful performances. Often, as in parts of Jeremy Tambling's monograph, the film gets read (rather simplistically, I think) as an allegory for the return of Hong Kong to China (this is, of course, a dominant subtext in much of WKW's work, but I think its importance might be a tad bit overplayed). But there's more to it than that (as Tambling himself points out); the themes of loss and longing--prevalent elsewhere in WKW's work--are on full display here. Besides which, it's gorgeous. 

The title itself is interesting. Wong Kar-Wai observed (somewhere) that, while most viewers seem to take the title as ironic, he doesn't necessarily see it that way. These two deeply messed-up men really are happy together--sometimes. And the idea seems to be that those moments of happiness make the rest worthwhile, or at least worth bearing. As a recommendation for how to actually live, I'm skeptical; but as an artistic statement, I'm very taken by the idea (and it's an idea not confined to WKW, of course; Moffat does similar things in Doctor Who, to make a sudden shift to a very different sort of nerd culture). 

I intend, once nominations are done, to lobby pretty heavily for this movie. So these are some preliminary thoughts. I'll have more once we enter phase three of the process.

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Rewatched [most of] this last night and thought that, with the first round of voting underway, I would bump this thread. There's several aspects here that lend the movie to a list of films on mercy:

1. Obviously, the way in which Tony Leung's character Lai Yiu-fai takes care of Leslie Cheung (Ho Po-wing), in spite of the fact that the latter clearly doesn't "deserve"--in any strong sense--the attention. 

2. [Somewhat] less obvious is the way in which the movie honestly shows the very muddled nature of human acts of mercy. Lai Yiu-fai may be mercifully caring for Ho Po-wing, but his inner state is not at all un-conflicted; he is unhappy at first to take his former lover in and then, over the course of the movie, he becomes increasingly jealous; his initially-disinterested act of mercy gets mixed up with other emotions. Mercy is hard in this movie.

3. There's also the idea that sometimes individuals need to have mercy on themselves. I need to finish my re-watch to nail down some ideas on this, but Lai Yiu-fai seems to be motivated in some sections as much by guilt as he is by disinterested mercy or desire. His own resolution comes when he is able to let go of the guilt as well as the longing for Ho Po-wing and permit himself to be happy again. 

I'm going to try to finish the movie this weekend, at which point I'll probably have more to say. Meantime, consider this my advocacy for the movie.

Edited by NBooth

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