Happy Together

Happy Together ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Film School Drop Outs Weekly Challenge
Week 43: Wong Kar-Wai

Beautiful score, transportive imagery, wonderful performances.

Have you ever seen one of those short videos that starts at a small frame with camera slowly zooming out and keeping at it until it’s showing you the big picture, videos like—for lack of a better example, and a want to not be general in speaking—‘this is where you are’ that zooms out and keeps at it until it’s showing you as far as it can into our universe, to demonstrate how small you are in the grand scheme of things. Kar-wai does a similar thing with Happy Together over the 1hr 39mins runtime, by way of colors, and change in setting. All in tune with how the protagonist feels, and views the world; constantly mapping where’s at emotionally and generally in his life.

The cut to the waterfall in the opening scene illustrates the explosive nature and downward spiral of the relationship. Black-and-white photography showcasing the bleakness, the grey area their doomed romance exists in as do they. Changing to saturated/harsh colors, once they start over again after the injury but with a significant shift in power and so starts Tony Leung’s character’s (Lai Yiu-fai) constant push-and-pull to maintain the newfound power, that is at its height when he hides the passport --so after Leslie Cheung’s Ho Po-wing recovers L can use it to exert control/power, and also so H wouldn’t be able to leave him in that country, or in general. He himself couldn’t leave and he didn’t trust the boyfriend to stay. Something that is very well written, the exploration of unhealthy power dynamics that is, and how strong/overpowering the feeling of powerlessness can be. It’s only natural that he categorizes that time period as “the happiest days” since he was the one taking care of him, and Ho needed Lai more than Lai needed Ho, the affection was on his own terms - he could choose to withhold or give, instead of waiting for the ‘let’s start over’ - and could use the ‘leave my apartment’ card. But it’s also the only time where we see the aggressive touch change to tender embrace.

Because once he recovers, Lai is, for the most part, powerless again. Things are over, melancholia makes a return, as do the colors black-and-white this time in Leung’s outfit set against the metallic/rustic background? Him sitting in the boat is a mood, though. It is so serene. All scenes just ooze style, even the bright football ones that are tinted like silent movies.

As the film goes on the colors start to seem/get lively and bolder, and some of it is actually the addition/change in vibrancy of colors -- like seen in road landmark that is seen twice, but the second time it pops, is full of life-- and details in settings like the new, open apartment he lives in that is in stark contrast with the previous, closed one. Letting the light in. But some of it is also obviously the emotional journey that Leung’s character goes through of moving on, closing the chapter on Cheung’s character of his own accord, (L’s world is no longer H), and leaving that enhances these aspects? As you watch it you feel all of these changes, even if the first is just an illusion of the other two. Just like for Lai, for the audience the film’s world starts out with feeling claustrophobic and by the end, no longer limiting. It literally and figuratively expands.

I feel like I didn’t explain my thoughts properly, but anyways Wong Kar-wai is brilliant and I love him!!