Happy Together (1997)

First of all, I’m writing and posting this from my phone. The Future! But if there are any funny or weird typos, blame it on the autocorrect. Speaking of the future and my phone, I finally have my tv setup perfected. Well, I might change it up when I move, but I can stream youtube, music, netflix, etc. to my tv and control it via my phone. I can’t watch movies or long tv shows on my computer because there are too many distractions.

On the recommendation of Jo, I watched Happy Together. I haven’t watched a full length movie in a while and it’s been even longer since I’ve written or talked anything about one. This reminds me, I should pull out my shitty film class essays from school so wu can laugh at them.

Happy Together is really fantastic both in its story and technique.

When I was finished watching, I told Jo how much I enjoyed the film. She responded that she wondered whether I would, especially because of the complicated and abusive relationship between Po-wing and Yiu-fai. A lot of media seems to be focused on trying to present relatable characters. Characters that we root for and connect to because we see pieces of ourselves in them. The problem with a lot of these characters is that they only portray unrealistic and idealized parts of ourselves.

If you watch this film, it’s no secret that Po-wing treats Yiu-fai like shit. But he treats himself just as horribly. Yiu-fai also, at times, treats his partner as more of a burden than anything else. Perhaps Yiu-fai is justified in this, but it reinforced Po-wing’s dirt low self-esteem. The cynical nature of all of this is much more compelling and even realistic than two lovers putting the bad times behind and getting through it. And I don’t think anybody would want to be either person in this pair, we’d probably see parts of ourselves in it that aren’t easy to admit to.

Beyond the story, I was really taken by the different camera and editing techniques. A lot of scenes are cut in a way that gives the illusion of more time passed. I hate to ruin this review and entry with a terrible reference, but parts of the film were like a T-ara music video. I’m still not sure if the setting takes place over months or years but I may have missed something.

I loved the use of mirrors and that they seemed to be used particularly in times of reflection, anguish, or fighting. It wasn’t something that I picked up until I noticed a lack of mirrors during the happier points in Po-wing and Yiu-fai relationship. One particular scene stands out with the two fighting but the camera angle is through a mirror. In a film like this, I have to believe everything is done with a specific intent, so I have to think their fight was as much about their internal unhappiness as it was with each other. Yiu-fai later comparing himself to Po-wing (“I guess lonely people are all the same”) adds to this.

Finally, and this is another thing that I noticed gradually happening, the use of color matches Yiu-fai growth. Simply put, the world gets more colorful as he gains more and more happiness. It’s not just the shift from black and white, but the tones of all the colors become more vibrant along with Yiu-fai.

If there is one thing that I wish would have been more explored is Po-wing’s back story. We learn a lot about Yiu-fai, his history, and his family, which explains a lot about why he is the way he is. We even learn the these things about Chang. I suspect Po-wing suffered some abuse in his life before he met Yiu-fai, but it’s never something we explicitly see.

When Jo linked me this, I was going to “watch it later” as I plan with a lot of stuff – well intentioned and sincere but forgotten. I’m really glad that I was able to just put everything aside and watch it for 90 minutes. I’m hoping to do this again even if it is a SB recommended movie that I’d have little to talk about.