April 14, 2024

HAPPY TOGETHER (1997) – Remembering Leslie Cheung

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

It’s hard to imagine that it’s been 20 years since the untimely passing of Leslie Cheung, one of Hong Kong’s most renowned and talented stars. In honour of this anniversary, I pulled up this classic Wong Kar Wai film that displayed Leslie’s incredible acting abilities. I must admit that I had never watched this film before, and seeing it for the first time now, some 26 years after it was released, is an eye opener. After all these years, Wong Kar Wai’s signature directorial style, which is quite obvious here, still looks and feels fresh and current. His technique is intimate and engaging. We are constantly involved with the story not only from the amazing performances of his cast but also from his artistry. Every scene comes alive whether he chooses to use black and white or colour. The Argentina landscape provides an almost ethereal world with it contrasting colours, and strangely beautiful with its unfamiliarity.

Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung both delivered powerful performances that seemed raw and unabashedly honest. Wong Kar Wai manages to elicit such vitality and reality from his two then-young stars that they appear as genuine as it gets. The movie is intriguing because we are continuously trying to figure out what these two guys find in each other because of their love hate toxic relationship. They spend an excessive amount of time fighting and yelling at one other, making the whole thing feel so contrary to the film’s rather deceiving title. Chang Chen, a Taiwanese actor, makes a brief appearance as someone who enters Tony Leung’s character’s life. Chang has less screen time, but his low key performance is surprisingly quietly effective.

Happy Together is a modern-day masterpiece that fascinates its audience not only through its performances, but possibly even more so by the mood established by the distinctive imagery that Kar Wai so expertly and effortlessly crafted. It’s a classic story of love gone wrong, loneliness, and the universal search for happiness. Depending on how you perceive its open-ended conclusion, it might feel both depressing or inspiring. Happy Together is just as relevant today as it was 26 years ago and is definitely in a class of its own. It is a showcase of Wong Kar Wai, Leslie and Tony at their prime. Finally, it’s a great film to remember Leslie Cheung by, as it reminds us of his amazing talent and our loss.

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