Happy Together (1997)

November 17, 2003 • Film, Reviews

Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung, two of Hong Kong’s biggest stars, play a pair of gay lovers living out the waning days of their relationship as expatriates in Buenos Aires. Together with Australian Christopher Doyle, Kar-Wai’s longtime cinematographer, the director discovers a city rich with diverse cultural influences. Happy Together reveals a corner of the world alive with intimate colors and an astounding array of sounds. Even more striking, though, is the way that such an international collaboration brings to life a romance that is both realistic and universal. Ho and Lai are characters who are instantly identifiable, who play the roles and experience the dynamics that all couples go through in the course of a relationship. Lusty tango bars, the salsa music of the La Boca sidewalks, and a hypnotic visit to the nearby Iguazu Falls give further dimension to the tensions growing between the two lovers.


“A dazzling story with a gorgeously garish palette…luscious, intimate, edgy erotic fireworks from Hong Kong’s top auteur. [A] sexy, spiky love story.”
– Richard Corliss, Time Magazine

“Loose, buoyant and bracingly original, HAPPY TOGETHER… capture perfectly the jumbled, cut-off lives of his characters. If Jack Kerouac had been born 40 years later, and had he worked in film, this is precisely the kind of story he would have told.”
—Edward Guthmann, San Francisco Gate

“Stylistically brash, pulsing with life…captures the restless, open-to-everything spirit of youth.”
– Stephen Holden, The New York Times

“For stylistic magic nothing surpasses…Happy Together.”
– David Ansen, Newsweek

When this movie came out it was generally thought of as Wong Kar-Wai’s best film. Now, with the debut of In the Mood For Love, Happy Together has taken a real backseat to this clearer, more refined masterpiece. But the film, about two gay lovers stranded together in Argentina, has all the style and feeling of any of Wong’s films since Ashes of Time. Wong’s string of fascinating thematic and stylistic explorations is the closest thing we have now to the times when Fellini, Antonioni, Truffaut, Sergio Leone, and Godard were putting out film after film and breaking new boundaries every time.

happytogether2The lovers in this film are played by Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. Tony Leung demonstrates once again why he is, as Christopher Doyle calls him, Wong Kar-Wai’s “muse.” His performance is multifaceted and completely realistic. The man is like a chameleon, moving from one role to the next as if he simply were each of these different characters. He does for contemporary acting what Jack Nicholson did in the seventies and what Toshiro Mifune did in the fifties and sixties: he makes it look easy. Leslie Cheung is no slouch either, bringing to this film the kind of sexual energy he had in Temptress Moon and Shanghai Grand.

But the star of the film is, as always, Wong Kar-Wai. Wong captures Buenos Aires in a way no one else has done, and he gives us real feeling encased in a beautiful package of exquisite cinematography, beautiful sets and costumes, choice performances and a ravishing selection of music.


Director: Wong Kar-Wai
Script: Wong Kar-Wai
Producer: Wong Kar-Wai
Cinematographer: Christopher Doyle

Leslie Cheung Kwok-Wing, Tony Leung Chui-Wai, Chang Chen

Country: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese
Running Time: 98 min


• Winner, 17th Annual Hong Kong Film Awards: Best Actor (Tony Leung Chiu-wai)

• Nominee, 17th Annual Hong Kong Film Awards: Best Picture; Best Director (Wong Kar-wai); Best Actor (Leslie Cheung); Best Supporting Actor (Chang Chen); Best Cinematography (Christopher Doyle); Best Editing (William Cheung Suk-Ping, Wong Ming-Lam); Best Art Direction (William Cheung Suk-Ping); Best Costume Design (William Cheung Suk-Ping)

• Winner, Golden Horse Awards: Best Cinematography (Christopher Doyle)

• Nominated, Golden Horse Awards: Best Director (Wong Kar-Wai); Best Actor (Leslie Cheung)

• Nominated, Independent Spirit Awards: Best Foreign Film

• Winner, Cannes Film Festival: Best Director (Wong Kar-Wai)

• Nominated, Cannes Film Festival: Golden Palm

• Winner, Arizona International Film Festival: Audience Award (Most Popular Foreign Film)

• Hong Kong Film Critics Society Film of Merit

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