Happy Together

by

comment

The fact that writer-producer-director Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together employs a familiar narrative -- a tale of two tempestuously crossed partners in love -- only highlights the auteur's unique set of strengths. Innovator Wong expands the vision behind his classics Chungking Express and As Tears Go By with rare vitality.

In this case, the lovers are Chinese expatriates Ho Po-Wing and Lai Yiu-Fai, a couple whose frenzied sex kicks the film off with ardor and angst. The two men lodged in Argentina are enamored of each other, but while traveling one day to see Iguazu Falls, abruptly break apart and go their separate ways. Over the picture's course, Ho and Lai repeatedly break up and make up on a fervid run of wild passion. It is Wong's temperament that gives this chaotic affair an unusual profundity.

Wong has a tireless eye, and his cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, finds as much interest in the couple's necking as in a bustling Buenos Aires at sunset. Wong and Doyle boldly change film stocks and speeds, utilize color tints and do uncanny things with the camera. This saturated Kodachrome world pulses with a youthful energy that is fitted to the lovers' tragic relationship.

Significantly, like his influence Jean-Luc Godard, Wong builds pastiches. His genre-skipping here is at once mind-blowing and effortless, the film often grounded in straight drama and then building into an overblown romance send-up driven by the long, yearning brass lines of Frank Zappa. The punk edges of "Chungas Revenge," used in repetition, become a theme of doomed romance for these men inflamed by the wildness of their own tempers.

Wong balances these fiery aspects against delicate takes of the Falls that enthrall solely through their arbiter's enthusiasm. One moving scene, staged only with music and no dialogue, finds Lai floating in a boat by himself, looking over the forbidding waves that perfectly symbolize his quiet desperation.

Another triumph for the provocative Wong, Happy Together probes the heartaches and pains that reverberate after the love is gone.

Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.