Quarter Life Crisis

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Happy Together

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Trying to see more films by Wong Kar Wai, I picked his 1997 work Happy Together as the next one to see. It is about Po-wing and Yiu-fai, a couple from Hong Kong who go to Argentinia together, and sort-of break up there. They both try to live their separate lives of very different styles – one of them working, the other one partying – and despite everything end up living in the same single room flat.

And if your knowledge of Chinese names hasn’t made this clear already, both of them are guys. But that’s just a fact which is quite explicitly introduced in the opening scene but isn’t too important for what follows.

black and white scene with Po-wing and Yiu-fai smoking -  seen through a glass door in front of which they stand

In the Wong Kar Wai films I’ve seen so far I was left with the impression that they’re mostly about people not having relationships with each other. But that’s quite a coarse way to look at it. Of course those people do have relationships but they mostly center around them not coming or being ‘together’ but always avoiding that. In a way Happy Together differs from this as we start off with a couple. But it also fits perfectly into that style as they split up and everything that happens afterwards is about the interaction of two people who could be together but don’t want to.

What’s quite extraordinary in this film is the use of colour. There are scenes which are (almost) black and white. And there are others which almost burst for the colour they contain. I found this both, a bit overdone and rather cool. I might need to see the film again to make my mind up on it. Tracking down whether and how colour is used to reflect the current situation in the scene, say.

Image of blood on the floor in the abattoir where Yiu-fai works

But there’s much more to the film. Starting with Po-wing and Yiu-fai’s wish to visit the Iguazú falls, which they fail at intially and only Yiu-fai manages to see them before his return to China. Including the oddly exotic – at least from a European point of view – mix of Asia and South America which works rather well. And not forgetting the whole subplot with another Chinese guy, Chang, who is a colleague of Yiu-fai and who will travel to the southern tip of America before returning home to Taiwan. He’s a refreshingly non-tragic person in the film and the actor Chen Chang is known from other films as well.

Colourfully driving in a car

July 19, 2005, 0:39

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