Happy Together (春光乍洩). Dir. Wong Kar-wai (王家衛). 1997.
Made on the eve of Hong Kong’s return from British colonial rule to mainland China, Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together features the tumultuous relationship of a gay couple, Ho Po-wing (Leslie Cheung) and Lai Yiu-fai (Tony Leung Chiu-wai). The film is set in Buenos Aires, Argentina, exactly halfway around the world from Hong Kong, and through Wong Kar-wai’s trademark loose narrative structure, illustrates the couple’s destructive, yet mutually co-dependent relationship, as they break up only to get back together over and over again. Despite the film’s English title, which references The Turtles’ 1967 song of the same name, Happy Together is brimming with melancholy and unreciprocated emotions alongside momentary encounters of hope and love. The film also explores themes of diasporic exile, as the characters simultaneously long for home while also desiring to be in transit, and is commonly read as an allegory about Hong Kong’s return to China. The film abstracts the journey of coming to terms with one’s past, present, and future. As Leslie Cheung’s character repeats throughout the film: “Let’s start over again”.
Happy Together received international recognition, winning the prestigious Palmes d’Or and allowing Wong Kar-wai to win Best Director at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.