Vargiu Riccardo James | Bologna, Italy | 07/22/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Happy Together, by Chinese director Wong Kar-Wai, is one of my all-time favourite movies, and - along with The Tango Lesson - one of the movies that has affected me the most. To me, HT is one of those (rare) art products that manage to combine formal beauty, intellectual sharpness and emotional depth all into one.
I have watched HT many times, and each time I felt that it had a new meaning to convey. My impressions about this movie have therefore shifted with time, leading me not to a definite interpretation but to the knowledge that art - as life itself - can be looked at from different points of view.
The story line is quite simple: two lovers leave Hong Kong and go to Argentina; once there, they argue so much they decide to break up; one of them (Ho Po-Wing) prostitutes himself, while the other (Lai-Yiu Fai) works in a tango-bar and virtuously puts money aside to return home; one day, chance unites them and for a short while they live happily together; inevitably, however, the friskier one becomes dissatisfied with their conjugal life; they separate again, and this time it's really the end. Needless to say, the movie's title - as light-hearted as it sounds - is actually quite deceiving: the two men's relationship turns out to be a rather "unhappy" one.
The first few times I watched HT I couldn't help feeling disgusted by Ho Po-Wing's moral hideousness - I thought of him as the negative-model the movie meant to point the finger against. I thought the movie proved that although there are no "real heroes" some people do behave better than others, and that by self-discipline one could "redeem" one's soul... I thought the movie was about Aesthetics as a means of purification, as if Beauty could protect one from squalor. I admired Lai-Yiu Fai and mercilessly condemned Ho Po-Wing.
I still admire Lai-Yiu Fai, of course, but I now feel I was too superficial in judging Ho Po-Wing. I see he's not the monster I made him out to be in the past: he's a victim of his own temperament, a person misfortunate to the point of being unable to grasp the good life offers him. In this, I feel he well portrays many homosexuals, who, I'm afraid, often let happiness slip out of their hands, perhaps because a sick environment has taught them not to "love" but to "want." In my opinion, not only are we "all the same when we feel lonely," as Lai-Yiu Fai puts it - that is: inclined to promiscuous sex - we're also "all the same" in that we are all constantly on the verge of self-inflicted unhappiness.
Last time I watched HT, about a week ago, I got extremely sad, because I realised how easy it is for anyone to fall, and because through experience I've come to understand that so many of us are like Ho Po-Wing, damned to suffer the pains of degradation and solitude because of our "insatiability." We are taught that since we aren't attracted to someone of the opposite sex we are "bad" and have no values. Of course the effect of this is that we end up believing they are right. Thus, monogamy and fidelity become accessories, as tenderness and mutual support.
To me, Happy Together is about all this."
I want "Happy Together" DVD special edition!
pan-gon | Hong Kong | 11/17/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Nowadays, Hong Kong movies on region 1 DVD is still a small numbers in the American market. In compare the remastered with those Hollywood films, Chinese films of DVD version may not be in top form. The R1 "Happy Together" (1997) that released by KINO is one of the good example of that. The worse thing is the audio part, the volume level is very low and presented in very bad mono sound. (The problem is also occurred in R1 Fallen Angels, another film of Wong Kar-Wai and released by KINO. I doubt that the audio remasterd is in dolby digital 2.0, because my center speaker is no sound, but there is no indication on the package.) In compare with Japanese R2 Version of "Happy Together" (PIBF-7056, price:4700 yen, released by Prenom H), the audio part is brilliant. However, the video tranferred in R1 version is quite impressed me. It is because the image is very match with the style of Chris Doyle (cinematography of the film) that done in the film.By the way, I always thought that the disc is released too early. Block 2 pictures Inc. recent released the documentary film named: "Buenos Aires Zero Degree: The making of Happy Together" (1999). The most important parts in that 59 minutes film is the cut scene, you will see the alternative version or vision of that film, for instance: Lai (Tony Leung) meets a female character on trip to waterfall and the death of Lai. It is not for promotion purposed, it is really a documentary about "Happy Together". If this documentary could be included on DVD, it would make the DVD most perfect. I wish that KINO would released a new DVD special edition of Happy Together with the documentary film and remake the audio channel. Personally, I hope the disc could be released by Criterion. I'm so sure that if that come true, the disc would not be the same. Finally, If you are a fan of Wong Kar-Wai, don't miss his new movie: "In the Mood for Love" (2000)."
The way life should be
Karen Robinson | 07/21/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here's a movie I can hardly imagine myself ever getting tired of. Though it is, indeed, the story of an unfortunate and - as it turns out - unhappy love affair, it is not just that: Happy together is a wonderful (and yet sad) fairytale about life and human nature. In this movie I saw the good and the bad that's in each one of us, the potential for happiness which so often succumbs to the stronger inclination to self-destruction, and yet the hope that in the end something good will come out of sorrow. There are no "real heroes" (is there really such a thing anyway?) in this movie, for - as Lai-Yiu Fai puts it - we're all the same when we feel lonely. But there are some differences between people... Though we are all likely to fall (sooner or later), only some of us seem to recognize the fall in time to rise, finding the will to smile and move on with dignity and self-acceptance, looking forward to life and its surprises (though they may be both good and bad). Awareness is a big issue in this movie, and it seems to me to be the most important difference between the two lovers: Lai-Yiu Fai seems to have a much deeper understanding of life and sex, as well as of the consequences each choice bears along. Ho Po-Wing only sees the surface of things and lives for today, thus making their being "happy together" nothing but a temporary illusion. In the end, Ho Po-Wing too seems to gain in awareness, and so maybe (though I'm inclined to think some people never change) there is hope for him as well. The point is, I think, that there is no difference between what you do and how you do it. How you do a thing (that is, with what attitude and degree of awareness) obscures what you do to such an extent that the latter is no longer relevant at all. Lai reaches the bottom of his personal hell and finds he isn't so different from Ho after all, even though he had told his friend more than once "I'm not like you." So why do we sympathize for Lai and inevitably feel Ho is behaving badly? Is it the money factor? Personally, I don't think so, 'cause sure it's hard to approve of someone who, so to speak, exchanges sex with money, but if Lai too had decided to become a hustler we still would have teamed up with him. The fact is, he seems to be so conscious of his weakness, of his need to be "happy together," and yet so disillusioned, that his deviancies from his usual conduct - degrading as they may be - seem to contribute to his heroism rather than betray it. It's his honesty with himself (and us) that makes Lai a positive character, as opposed to Ho, who has something sneaky about him (then again, we are only provided with Lai's point of view: he speaks to us, Ho does not. I wonder if maybe his truth was different from his friend's...). Lai's dignity remains intact throughout the movie, and to me what he really symbolizes is honesty's redemptive force. His interpretation of his own actions (which surfaces through his many monologues) makes everything he does seem beautiful, and therefor right. This movie is a lot about esthetics. It is so as regards human relationships, and it is more so cinematically. What could have been an "already seen" love-story with an inevitable unhappy ending, is turned into a work of art, in my opinion a real masterpiece, by the beautiful photography and the director's brilliant ideas. Modernistic techniques come together beautifully in this movie, conveying emotions that otherwise would not arise. The visionary beauty of this film is what makes it morally edifying and what makes anyone who sees it stop and reflect upon a lot more than just the meaning of the movie. Words, images and music all balance out perfectly, urging the spectator to think "this is real life," or at least "this is the way real life should be.""
Happy Together / Buenos Aires Zero Degrees
The Nippon Newfie | Tokyo Japan and Bangkok Thailand | 11/13/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Fans of Chinese director Wong Kar-Wai will be thrilled by this new DVD edition of his classic film Happy Together.
The movie is slow-paced, low-key, and often shot in black in white. It is the story of two gay Chinese men in Buenos Aires, who are more often unhappy together than happy together. It is not an easy movie to watch perhaps and will not appeal to everyone, but as an art film and a gay-themed love story it is a contemporary classic.
I had an earlier release of this DVD, but purchased this new edition to see the making-of documentary Buenos Aires: Zero Degrees, which is a special feature on the new release. The documentary itself is a gem as it reveals so many storylines that did not appear in the final film. It is fascinating to see the directions the film might have taken and how such a different film could have come out of the editing room. We can really appreciate Wong Kar-Wai's process, working without a script, and see the difficulties it causes for the actors. Lead actor Tony Leung's comments about working on the film are especially insightful.
Wong Kar-Wai's In the mood for love is the film that brought him the greatest international recognition perhaps, but Happy Together was an important step on the road to that masterpiece. Few new fans will be won by this DVD, but for those who already appreciate Wong Kar-Wai's work this DVD is a must-have."