Happy Together

Happy Together ★★★★½

"I wonder what Hong Kong looks like upside down."

The two greatest Chinese actors of their generation locked in a room and tearing each other apart with short spells apart spent luxuriating in some of Christopher Doyle's most exuberantly beautiful images, while young Chang Chen floats around as the hope for the future.

Theory that the trouble with the relationship is not Leslie Cheung's infidelity, it's Tony Leung's paranoid possessiveness. He steals Leslie's passport, he packs the house with cigarettes so Leslie won't ever leave, he secretly hopes Leslie won't recover from his injuries. We never see Leslie with another man when they were together, only when they're broken up, self-destructively flaunting his promiscuity in the face of Tony's distrust. Leslie's tragedy is that despite all that he still loves him and believes that if they start again, Tony can change. There's ample evidence of Tony's lunatic behavior (smashing a guy who slept with Leslie with a bottle, stealing from his father's business), but it's unclear if he ever realizes his own faults, rather than blaming it all on Leslie. And rather than accept his faults and become a better person, in the end his jealous eye has turned toward young Chang. He does steal his picture, after all. I like to think that isn't the case, that his tape recorded sobbing is evidence that he finally understands his guilt.

Or maybe the conventional reading, that Tony's simply a stand-up guy driven to lunacy by his lover's indiscretions, is correct. I don't know. I do know that there's a slow-motion shot, with Tony backlit by a setting sun as he takes a drink with the restaurant boys playing soccer in the street behind him, pink and green lens flares radiating out of the sun and dancing across the screen as the camera drifts right then left, that might be the most gorgeous single image Wong and Doyle ever made.

Sean liked these reviews