Happy Together

on October 10, 1997 by Wade Major
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   Yet another (over)extended rock video masquerading as an Asian art film from Hong Kong's shade-laden king of cool, Wong Kar-Wai's "Happy Together" is noteworthy for not much else than the casting of sex symbols Leslie Cheung ("Farewell My Concubine") and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai ("Chungking Express," "Hard-Boiled") as gay lovers.
   Shock value and the Cannes fest's best director prize aside, Wong's follow-up to the lavishly overpraised "Chungking Express" offers little in the way of stylistic or narrative progress, although it should please his core fans. As with previous efforts, Wong's "style" here consists primarily of random experimentation with film stocks, exposures, frame rates and other assorted laboratory tricks.
   Had such tinkering been in the service of a story, it might be possible to cut him some slack. But a near-total absence of narrative very quickly makes even the most minute excesses in style almost unbearably tedious. As music and imagery splash across the screen, audiences are treated to nothing more exciting than boy meets boy, boy loses boy, boy gets boy back, boy loses boy, boy gets boy back, boy loses boy, und so weiter.
   Fortunately, the affair isn't as tedious as it might have been, thanks primarily to a beguiling Argentinean setting, nicely photographed by Christopher Doyle whenever Wong's meddling is kept to a minimum. But such interludes are few, outnumbered by an endless parade of closeups revealing the lead actors in various states of angst and contemplation. By the time the credits roll to a blithely recorded cover of the '60s rock ditty "Happy Together," audiences might not be so appreciative of the titular irony.    Starring Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. Directed, written and produced by Wong Kar-Wai. A Kino release. Romance. Cantonese-, Mandarin- and Spanish-language; English subtitles. Unrated. Running Time: 94 min. Screened at Cannes. Won Best Director.
Tags: Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Wong Kar-Wai, A Kino release, Romance, narrative, stylistic, imagery, sex symbol
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