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Happy Together
cast: Tony Leung, Leslie Cheung, and Chang Chen

writer, producer, and director: Wong Kar-wai

94 minutes (15) 1997 widescreen ratio 16:9
Artificial Eye DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Emma French
It soon becomes clear that the title of this film about two young Hong Kong Chinese male lovers travelling together in Argentina is deeply ironic. Happy Together (aka: Chunguang Zhaxie) is directed by Wong Kar-wai, who is also responsible for the similarly elegiac and poignant films Chungking Express (aka: Chongqing Senlin, 1994) and In The Mood For Love.
   Thwarted love forms the main theme of Happy Together, a film which convincingly portrays an inequitable couple, one bratty and flighty, one dependable but slightly tedious. Leslie Cheung's brilliant performance as the emotionally fragile and unstable half of the couple, Ho Po-wing, is made all the more tragic by his subsequent suicide in April 2003. Tony Leung's repressed, agonised turn as the other, more grounded half, Lai Yiu-fai, is equally moving and utterly persuasive. The film's intense focus on its two leads, frequently in scenes with little or no dialogue, makes great demands on its actors, but Cheung and Leung meet the challenge to stunning effect.
   Beautifully shot and lit, the film vividly evokes the experiences of the Chinese Diaspora in Buenos Aires. Wong Kar-wai matches the pace of his film to that of his story, and the film never allows itself to hurry ahead, lingering over the everyday details of the two men's lives, from street football matches to bus and boat journeys. The film opens with a disastrous pilgrimage to the Iguazu Falls, and a stunning aerial shot of the Falls is used twice in the film at length to mirror the emotional turmoil and maelstrom the two lovers are experiencing.
   There are a number of special features on the disc. In addition to a trailer and filmographies for Wong Kar-wai, Christopher Doyle, Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung, there is also a featurette about the film's use of its Argentinean setting which provides some useful insights. Both the film and its DVD extras are thought provoking and marked by a commendable attention to getting the small details as well as the big picture right. This is an unusual, charming and brave film that loses none of its emotional punch on the small screen.

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