Happy Together ★★★★

I've always said that Wong Kar-wai's films are like odes to Hong Kong. Or Hong Kong as it was in the past. But Happy Together is not an ode to Hong Kong. Instead, it's set on the other side of the world: Argentina. An unlikely choice but a beautiful one.

As with other Kar-wai films, it's always the cinematography that lunges at you. Typical of his style. I'd say that Happy Together is probably much more daring than his other films. Often overshadowed by In the Mood for Love and Chungking Express. Happy Together is both a happy and sad portrayal of romance. Yes, it's a love between two men. But instead of focusing on that aspect as other films do, it focuses more on their time together. It's cynical as much as it is positive. Kar-wai won Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival for a reason.

The film also pays tribute to classic noir style. But with a purpose. The black-and-white colors reflect their time apart. And gradually...color emerges. There's color when they rekindle their relationship or as they say "start over" again. The visuals speak as much as the story, as much as the actors. The aesthetics are also reminiscent of other Kar-wai elements -- cramped apartments, sudden close-ups, deep DOFs. But the colors are all retro. They're vibrant and intense. Add some exotic music to that. The setting and scenery are all beautiful. It's so so so appealing to the eyes.

Of course, we have Tony Leung Chiu-wai again. Yes, he won Best Actor for In the Mood for Love, but I'd say Happy Together is his opus. It's a much more dramatic, challenging and intense character; he delivered it with more passion characters. He wants Po-wing (Leslie Cheung), but he can't show that but we still know he does -- that part is delivered very well. On the other hand, we have a charismatic Leslie Cheung here. He's able to deliver Po-wing's character with such rawness and explosion of emotions. Conflicted but at the same time very powerful. The chemistry between the two is undeniable.

The film is about intimacy. And it shows that. Chiu-wai and Cheung's acting all deliver that. In the cinematography, in the sounds, it shows all that. Even if Chiu-wai's character speaks in Cantonese while Chen's character speaks in Mandarin, it doesn't create a distance because it shows the understanding between the two. Happy Together is so underrated compared to its counterparts, but it's also one of the most beautiful.

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