Many instantly cite Brokeback Mountain as the prime example of gay cinema, at least between two men, but for me, now, Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together will serve as the film that really gets it. Where Brokeback comes across almost as a fantasy, a too-perfect-to-be-true fairy tale, Happy Together treats the relationship between the two men as any other relationship; one with problems and conflicts that must be dealt with and gotten over for the relationship to evolve, if indeed it survives the turmoil.
The arc of the characters and how they handle it is the prime focus of study here. The film treats each man as his own entity, with his own internal and external conflicts, and it’s how each man’s conflicts collide with each other that provides most of the value. There’s an inherent attraction between them, and they act on it several times, but at other points, the two men are directly destructive toward each other, and Wong makes it very fascinating to watch. The book has a particular sentence saying that every shot in this film is like a work of art, and one can definitely look at it that way. Every shot is carefully composed, lit, and choreographed, and truly makes the film a visual pleasure to watch; there doesn’t seem to be a basic shot composition in the whole film.
This was a good, progressive step for Wong; a nicely done evolution of his filmmaking style. While Chungking Express was mostly kinetic, this channels that energy into a focused style that puts the story and the characterizations first. With all that said, this is still a film about two dudes in love, and they’re quite affectionate throughout the film, so if that rubs you the wrong way, for whatever reason (and I promise not to judge), this film will likely not be for you, especially if you’re a subtitle snob. Still, I have to commend the filmmakers; I didn’t think any country outside the western world would be open to the idea of a film like this, so for Hong Kong to go ahead with it shows a lot of promise. Good for Wong Kar-wai, and well done overall; this is a film that eagerly earns its place on the list.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10