Monday, June 27, 2016
Celebrate Pride Month: Happy Together (1997)
As much as I loved this film, I wonder if the title could've been different so that those that don't know what it's about don't end up thinking it's a Turtles biopic.
Happy Together follows the story of a man named Lai Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung) and his lover Ho Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) who visit Buenos Aires to rekindle their relationship which proves to be unstable, revolving around a cycle of abuse and reconciliation.
What I loved so much about how the relationship in this film is depicted is that you could also make the film about a man and a woman or two women and it wouldn't mean any change to the story. So even though it is about two men, it is a very universal demonstration of love and how descructive it is. Not only that, but I don't think I have seen a queer film involving such a destructive relationship. Normally, we see films about a same-sex couple with one or both halves of the couple dealing with trying to come out of their own personal shell and whatnot. But here, we have an openly gay couple dealing with a struggle that can happen in any other relationship.
Next, I think the performances by the two lead actors are terrific. Tony Leung is amazing as Lai who repeatedly allows his own happiness to be disrupted by his lover yet slowly becomes more self-aware of his lover's destructive nature. Leslie Cheung is aces as the Ho, the destructive half of the main couple who acts as a tick, sucking the life and energy out of Lai and always clinging to him.
Even though the movie's relationship story is pretty simple, it manages to be elevated by its frenetic filmmaking style. In particular, the film is enhanced by the cinematography. The first 20 minutes or so are in black and white, which I thought was interesting. The way I see it, the black and white coloring is used as a representation of the personalities of Lai and Ho and how they are the yin to each other's yang or because they break up early on before getting back together, when they do get back together, they recapture the "color" of their relationship which proves to be ironic given how their personalities are so radically different. When they do reunite, the film starts to be in color and has a very kaleidoscopic look, I might add.
Lastly, I'll mention the rather frenetic editing. One of my favorite edited sequences is when Lai and Ho are at Lai's apartment and when Lai is watching Ho go to sleep, the scene then suddenly cuts to Ho watching Lai go to sleep. I just really liked how frantic the editing was because, along with the cinematography, it was able to elevate the film-watching experience of what is a rather simple story about love.
Overall, Happy Together is a rather simple yet universal tale of destructive love elevated by its terrific acting, colorful cinematography, and frenetic editing.