Happy Together


1h 37m 1997

Brief Synopsis

A chamber drama about two male lovers from Hong Kong who start off seeking a new life but end up separating on their way to a waterfall in Argentina. Stuck in Buenos Aires, the two meet up again.

Film Details

Also Known As
Cheun gwong tsa sit, Chunguang Zhaxie
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Foreign
Romance
Release Date
1997
Production Company
Block 2 Pictures; Jet Tone Films; Orange Sky Golden Harvest
Distribution Company
Kino International; Arp; Cinema Mondo; Cinemien; Filmcoopi Zurich Ag; Kino International; Kino Video; Les Films De L'Elysee; Lucky Red; Pandora Film Produktion; Triangelfilm

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 37m

Synopsis

A chamber drama about two male lovers from Hong Kong who start off seeking a new life but end up separating on their way to a waterfall in Argentina. Stuck in Buenos Aires, the two meet up again.

Crew

Rodolfo Alchourron

Song Performer ("Prologue (Tango Apasionada)" "Finale (Tango Apasionada)")

Adrian Belew

Song Performer ("I Have Been In You")

Max Bennett

Song Performer ("Chunga'S Revenge")

Gary Bonner

Song ("Happy Together")

Terry Bozzio

Song Performer ("I Have Been In You")

Benita Brazier

Script Supervisor

Napoleon M Brock

Song Performer ("I Have Been In You")

William Chang Suk-ping

Editor

William Chang Suk-ping

Production Designer

Joseph Chi Chiong-chavez

Production Coordinator

Leung Chi-tat

Sound Recording

Danny Chung

Music

Danny Chung

Song Arranger & Performer ("Happy Together")

T J Chung

Associate Producer

Paquito D'rivera

Song Performer ("Prologue (Tango Apasionada)" "Finale (Tango Apasionada)")

Christopher Doyle

Director Of Photography

Aynsley Dunbar

Song Performer ("Chunga'S Revenge")

Tu Duu-chih

Sound Editor

Andy Gonzalez

Song Performer ("Prologue (Tango Apasionada)" "Finale (Tango Apasionada)")

Alan Gordon

Song ("Happy Together")

Sugar Cane Harris

Song Performer ("Chunga'S Revenge")

Chang Hsein-jen

Unit Production Manager

Wong Kar Wai

Producer

Wong Kar Wai

Screenplay

Andre Lewis

Song Performer ("I Have Been In You")

Carmen Lui Lai-wah

Visual Continuity

Ed Mann

Song Performer ("I Have Been In You")

Thomas Mars

Song Performer ("I Have Been In You")

Tomás Mendez

Song ("Cucurrucucu Paloma")

Tomas Mendez Sosa

Song

Wong Ming-lam

Editor

Davey Moire

Song Performer ("I Have Been In You")

Jacques Morelenbaum

Song Arranger ("Cucurrucucu Paloma")

Patrick O'hearn

Song Performer ("I Have Been In You")

Jacky Pang

Production Supervisor

Jacky Pang Yee-wah

Production Supervisor

Astor Piazzola

Song Arranger & Performer ("Prologue (Tango Apasionada)" "Finale (Tango Apasionada)")

Hiroko Shinohara

Associate Producer

Fernando Suarez Paz

Song Performer ("Prologue (Tango Apasionada)" "Finale (Tango Apasionada)")

Randy Thornton

Song Performer ("I Have Been In You")

Christophe Tseng Ching-chao

Associate Producer

Ian Underwood

Song Performer ("Chunga'S Revenge")

Caetano Veloso

Song Performer ("Cucurrucucu Paloma")

Peter Wolf

Song Performer ("I Have Been In You")

Kong Yeuk-shing

Assistant Director

Frank Zappa

Song

Frank Zappa

Song Performer ("Chunga'S Revenge" "I Have Been In You")

Pablo Zinger

Song Performer ("Prologue (Tango Apasionada)" "Finale (Tango Apasionada)")

Film Details

Also Known As
Cheun gwong tsa sit, Chunguang Zhaxie
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Foreign
Romance
Release Date
1997
Production Company
Block 2 Pictures; Jet Tone Films; Orange Sky Golden Harvest
Distribution Company
Kino International; Arp; Cinema Mondo; Cinemien; Filmcoopi Zurich Ag; Kino International; Kino Video; Les Films De L'Elysee; Lucky Red; Pandora Film Produktion; Triangelfilm

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 37m

Articles

Happy Together (Blu-Ray) - Wong Kar-Wai's HAPPY TOGETHER (1997) on Blu-Ray


The obvious irony of Wong Kar-wai's Happy Together is that Ho Po-wing (Leslie Cheung, Farewell My Concubine) and Lai Yiu-fai (Tony Leung Chiu Wai, In the Mood for Love, Red Cliff) are angry, frustrated, vindictive, argumentative, everything but happy together. Wong ushers us into their story with a passport stamp and brief narrative introduction. "We've been together for a while and we break up often, but whenever he says, 'Let's start again,' I find myself back with him. So we left Hong Kong to start over. We hit the road and ended up in Argentina." That's all the preamble we get before the screen shifts B&W and Wong throws us into a hot and heavy sex scene between the Honk Kong dreamboat pop star Cheung and movie superstar (and Wong favorite) Leung. The scene is startling and intimate, though not explicit (the actors wrestle and grope but never drop their shorts for the camera), and it's the last time we see the lovers approaching anything close to happy together. On a road trip to the legendary Iguazu Falls (a breathtaking wonder that Christopher Doyle photographs with a god's-eye view that gives it a majesty and an otherworldy quality, an eruption of vivid color in the black-and-white road movie), the constantly arguing couple breaks up once again, and this time there is no "start again."

The film returns to color (with only brief flashes of black-and-white periodically interspersed) for their life after break-up. Broke and stuck on the other side of the world from home, Lai, our narrator and the practical one in the duo, finds a dump of a room in a communal apartment and a job as the doorman of a tango bar. Ho, the impulsive, emotionally erratic pretty boy, slips right into the life of a rent-boy, flaunting his lifestyle in front of Lai with a cruel smile before showing up on his doorstep bloodied, bruised and beaten. Lai takes him in, caring for him with a devotion that shows how much he cares, but won't take him back. "One thing I never told Ho," he confides to the audience. "I didn't want him to heal too quickly. Those were our happiest days." He also steals Ho's passport, perhaps as a way of keeping him close, possibly out of spite, but making a prisoner of Ho nonetheless. As Ho (all but helpless with his hands wrapped up in heavy bandages) spends his days chain smoking and killing time in the dinghy room and Lai gets a job in a restaurant kitchen, a new character enters the story, or rather brings his own story to the film. Chang (Chen Chang), an upbeat young guy from Taiwan, befriends Lai in what is a brief stop on his wanderlust journey to the end of the world. Their easy-going friendship only makes Lai more homesick.

Where previous Wong films like Ashes of Time and Chungking Express fractured the narrative with staccato editing and shifts back and forth through time, Happy Together presents a fairly straightforward narrative (even if the story is anything but conventional) and a visual style defined by longer takes and striking handheld camerawork that brings the viewer intimately close to the characters. And while it focuses on a gay couple (itself quite daring in Chinese cinema, which shies away from explicitly gay couples in movies and prefers suggestion to announcement), its portrait of characters who love each other but are combustible when together isn't limited by the sex of the characters. They can be cruel, manipulative, dismissive and vindictive, but they are alive and vital. Cheung is all emotional impulse and convincingly reckless and self-destructive as Ho, a man used to seducing his way through life with his boyish beauty. Leung is more thoughtful and sad as the quiet, introspective Lai, whose ruminations provides the melancholy narration. "I always thought I was different from Po-wing. It turns out lonely people are the same everywhere."

Ultimately, the film is about loneliness and disconnection, feelings exacerbated by being stuck so far away from home, in a culture that speaks a different language and dances to a different tune. Slow, sad tangos (predominantly Astor Piazzolla's melancholy "Tango Apasionado") sets the tone and the temperament of the film. It's not always pleasant to be in their company and on initial viewing the characters can come off as emotionally brutal and callously manipulative, but under these actions they are vulnerable, yearning, fumbling people who genuinely love one another but keep falling into the same destructive patterns.

Wong's distinctive style reaches all the way to his singular approach to filmmaking. His shoots go on much longer than traditional productions and the scripts are often drastically rewritten in production, as the actors settle in and inhabit their characters and Wong responds to the chemistry of the cast and the atmosphere and possibilities of his locations. He spent four months on principal photography on Happy Together, most of it on location in Argentina, and drastically altered the storyline. By the time he honed the film down to its 97-minute running time, he had completely eliminated subplots and a major character played by Hong Kong music star Shirley Kwan (some of her scenes can be seen in the accompanying documentary Buenos Aires Zero Degree). Just as defining to Wong's cinema is Christopher Doyle's cinematography. His collaborator on seven key features and various short films, Doyle's handheld camerawork (both intimate and dynamic), beautiful and fluid compositions and distinctive palettes don't just set Wong's films apart from every director, they frame and capture the emotional tensions and edgy personal dynamics of every scene. The black-and-white scenes have a rich, sharp, nuanced quality reminiscent of Robby Muller's monochrome photography for Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch, a cool realism that stands in contrast to the dreamy oversaturated color palette of neon greens and reds that Doyle and Wong have made their trademark. It casts a spell of hyper-reality and immediacy softened by the longing and melancholy of the narration and music.

All of this is presented with a remarkable level of clarity and color in Kino's Blu-ray edition. Wong's work has rarely looked this vivid on home video. The black-and-white scenes are so clear you can practically see through the image while the colors of the rest of the film burn and glow through the nocturnal scenes, giving it an electric buzz and an alienated atmosphere. The disc also features the supplements from the earlier DVD release, presented here in HD. The hour-long documentary 1999 Buenos Aires Zero Degrees spotlights Wong's organic approach to filmmaking by showing the evolution of the film, including footage of the deleted scenes featuring Shirley Kwan, along with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews. "Wong Kar-wai at the Museum of the Moving Image" features a Q&A with the director from 2008 (with an introduction by Ang Lee).

For more information about Happy Together, visit Kino Lorber. To order Happy Together, go to TCM Shopping.

by Sean Axmaker
Happy Together (Blu-Ray) - Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together (1997) On Blu-Ray

Happy Together (Blu-Ray) - Wong Kar-Wai's HAPPY TOGETHER (1997) on Blu-Ray

The obvious irony of Wong Kar-wai's Happy Together is that Ho Po-wing (Leslie Cheung, Farewell My Concubine) and Lai Yiu-fai (Tony Leung Chiu Wai, In the Mood for Love, Red Cliff) are angry, frustrated, vindictive, argumentative, everything but happy together. Wong ushers us into their story with a passport stamp and brief narrative introduction. "We've been together for a while and we break up often, but whenever he says, 'Let's start again,' I find myself back with him. So we left Hong Kong to start over. We hit the road and ended up in Argentina." That's all the preamble we get before the screen shifts B&W and Wong throws us into a hot and heavy sex scene between the Honk Kong dreamboat pop star Cheung and movie superstar (and Wong favorite) Leung. The scene is startling and intimate, though not explicit (the actors wrestle and grope but never drop their shorts for the camera), and it's the last time we see the lovers approaching anything close to happy together. On a road trip to the legendary Iguazu Falls (a breathtaking wonder that Christopher Doyle photographs with a god's-eye view that gives it a majesty and an otherworldy quality, an eruption of vivid color in the black-and-white road movie), the constantly arguing couple breaks up once again, and this time there is no "start again." The film returns to color (with only brief flashes of black-and-white periodically interspersed) for their life after break-up. Broke and stuck on the other side of the world from home, Lai, our narrator and the practical one in the duo, finds a dump of a room in a communal apartment and a job as the doorman of a tango bar. Ho, the impulsive, emotionally erratic pretty boy, slips right into the life of a rent-boy, flaunting his lifestyle in front of Lai with a cruel smile before showing up on his doorstep bloodied, bruised and beaten. Lai takes him in, caring for him with a devotion that shows how much he cares, but won't take him back. "One thing I never told Ho," he confides to the audience. "I didn't want him to heal too quickly. Those were our happiest days." He also steals Ho's passport, perhaps as a way of keeping him close, possibly out of spite, but making a prisoner of Ho nonetheless. As Ho (all but helpless with his hands wrapped up in heavy bandages) spends his days chain smoking and killing time in the dinghy room and Lai gets a job in a restaurant kitchen, a new character enters the story, or rather brings his own story to the film. Chang (Chen Chang), an upbeat young guy from Taiwan, befriends Lai in what is a brief stop on his wanderlust journey to the end of the world. Their easy-going friendship only makes Lai more homesick. Where previous Wong films like Ashes of Time and Chungking Express fractured the narrative with staccato editing and shifts back and forth through time, Happy Together presents a fairly straightforward narrative (even if the story is anything but conventional) and a visual style defined by longer takes and striking handheld camerawork that brings the viewer intimately close to the characters. And while it focuses on a gay couple (itself quite daring in Chinese cinema, which shies away from explicitly gay couples in movies and prefers suggestion to announcement), its portrait of characters who love each other but are combustible when together isn't limited by the sex of the characters. They can be cruel, manipulative, dismissive and vindictive, but they are alive and vital. Cheung is all emotional impulse and convincingly reckless and self-destructive as Ho, a man used to seducing his way through life with his boyish beauty. Leung is more thoughtful and sad as the quiet, introspective Lai, whose ruminations provides the melancholy narration. "I always thought I was different from Po-wing. It turns out lonely people are the same everywhere." Ultimately, the film is about loneliness and disconnection, feelings exacerbated by being stuck so far away from home, in a culture that speaks a different language and dances to a different tune. Slow, sad tangos (predominantly Astor Piazzolla's melancholy "Tango Apasionado") sets the tone and the temperament of the film. It's not always pleasant to be in their company and on initial viewing the characters can come off as emotionally brutal and callously manipulative, but under these actions they are vulnerable, yearning, fumbling people who genuinely love one another but keep falling into the same destructive patterns. Wong's distinctive style reaches all the way to his singular approach to filmmaking. His shoots go on much longer than traditional productions and the scripts are often drastically rewritten in production, as the actors settle in and inhabit their characters and Wong responds to the chemistry of the cast and the atmosphere and possibilities of his locations. He spent four months on principal photography on Happy Together, most of it on location in Argentina, and drastically altered the storyline. By the time he honed the film down to its 97-minute running time, he had completely eliminated subplots and a major character played by Hong Kong music star Shirley Kwan (some of her scenes can be seen in the accompanying documentary Buenos Aires Zero Degree). Just as defining to Wong's cinema is Christopher Doyle's cinematography. His collaborator on seven key features and various short films, Doyle's handheld camerawork (both intimate and dynamic), beautiful and fluid compositions and distinctive palettes don't just set Wong's films apart from every director, they frame and capture the emotional tensions and edgy personal dynamics of every scene. The black-and-white scenes have a rich, sharp, nuanced quality reminiscent of Robby Muller's monochrome photography for Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch, a cool realism that stands in contrast to the dreamy oversaturated color palette of neon greens and reds that Doyle and Wong have made their trademark. It casts a spell of hyper-reality and immediacy softened by the longing and melancholy of the narration and music. All of this is presented with a remarkable level of clarity and color in Kino's Blu-ray edition. Wong's work has rarely looked this vivid on home video. The black-and-white scenes are so clear you can practically see through the image while the colors of the rest of the film burn and glow through the nocturnal scenes, giving it an electric buzz and an alienated atmosphere. The disc also features the supplements from the earlier DVD release, presented here in HD. The hour-long documentary 1999 Buenos Aires Zero Degrees spotlights Wong's organic approach to filmmaking by showing the evolution of the film, including footage of the deleted scenes featuring Shirley Kwan, along with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews. "Wong Kar-wai at the Museum of the Moving Image" features a Q&A with the director from 2008 (with an introduction by Ang Lee). For more information about Happy Together, visit Kino Lorber. To order Happy Together, go to TCM Shopping. by Sean Axmaker

The Wong Kar-Wai Collection


With only eight films to his name since 1988, director Wong Kar Wai carved a niche for himself as an international art house favorite whose dreamy style, fractured narratives and sweeping, pop-flavored romanticism make each of his releases an event. First introduced to American audiences via Miramax's release of his third film, Chungking Express, he proved himself to be far more than the indie flavor of the month with a succession of groundbreaking films including the award-winning In the Mood for Love. After years of substandard video transfers and scattershot distribution, Kino has collected five of his pre-In the Mood films (skipping the unavailable masterpiece Ashes of Time, which is still afflicted with a dreadful presentation on DVD) and allows for a thorough (albeit pricey) appraisal of his early career.

His debut feature, As Tears Go By, earns much of its mileage from the dynamic teaming of Hong Kong superstars Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau, and Jacky Cheung in an openly acknowledged riff on Martin Scorses's Mean Streets, complete with soulful music interludes (not surprising given the Stones-inspired title), street violence, and pained romance. Two triad members in Kowloon, capable but violence-prone Wah (Lau) and younger, impetuous Fly (Jacky Cheung), find their lives changed with the arrival of Wah's beautiful, sweet-natured cousin, Ngor (Maggie Cheung); as the two men go about their brutal daily business, Wah finds himself yearning for a better, more stable life. Beautifully shot and fascinating as a blueprint for the director's subsequent, less violent fare, As Tears Go By was generally lost in the deluge of flashy crime films pouring out of Hong Kong in the wake of A Better Tomorrow; indeed, when seen in context with later films the main attraction here is the delicate interplay of color, shadow, and the actors' carefully measured expressions rather than the occasional explosions of brutality.

However, all of this feels like a mere dry run compared to his next film and first bona fide classic, 1991's Days of Being Wild. All three stars return along with some significant new cast additions; equally significant is the first participation of regular cinematographer Christopher Doyle, now justifiably regarded as one of the best in the business. Set in 1960, the multi-layered story begins with a fickle lothario, Yuddy (Leslie Cheung), picking up and then rejecting Su Lizhen (Maggie Cheung, playing perhaps the same character seen later in In the Mood for Love), who takes the breakup so badly she fails to see the far more worthwhile attentions of a well-intentioned policeman (Andy Lau) in her neighborhood. A mood piece par excellence, the film follows each character's path through a series of bittersweet disappointments and surprises, all accompanied by ravishing visuals and the director's skillful deployment of music to strike the perfect emotional counterpoint.

Both of these early titles look adequate but unspectacular on DVD, with anamorphic transfers similar to the ones seen previously on their Region 3 releases in Hong Kong. Blacks are a bit on the pale side, but colors are strong enough. Both prints are at least better than the ones circulating in repertory houses (HK films from this period are notoriously hard to see in decent condition), and the stereo audio sounds fine. (The Region 3 discs included forced and overamped 5.1 mixes, so the two-channel mix here is actually easier to endure.) Both discs include trailers for their respective films as well as Kino's future Wong Kar Wai releases, along with filmographies and still galleries.

In keeping with the welcome trend of studios cross-pollinating each other's DVD box sets to aid collectors, the Kino set includes one outside entry, Buena Vista's release of Chungking Express (1994), released earlier as a stand-alone title. A story in two interlocking halves, the film follows a pair of peculiar romances. Heartbroken cop He Qiwu, Officer 233 (House of Flying Daggers' Takeshi Kaneshiro), spends his spare hours ruminating over his ex-girlfriend and buying relevant cans of produce, while bewigged smugger Brigitte Lin is on the run after a double-cross sends her fleeing into the streets. Meanwhile checkout girl Faye (Faye Wang) becomes fascinated with lovelorn Police Officer 663 (Tony Leung) and uses access to his apartment key as a means to explore his inner life and take advantage of his surroundings while he's away. However, their separate lives are bound to collide and indeed do so in a most surprising manner. Though not the full-blown special edition this title deserves, the DVD is more than adequate with a sterling transfer (easily besting its earlier releases in other regions), a catchy 2.0 sound mix, the theatrical trailer, and for better or worse, wraparound segments featuring Quentin Tarantino, whose Rolling Thunder (a subsidiary of Miramax) released the film theatrically in the U.S. At least he's more sincere and subdued here than most of his other Rolling Thunder lectures, which come across like nails on a chalkboard. (See Curdled for one egregious example.)

Based on a story planned for but nixed from Chungking Express, the Kino staple Fallen Angels (1995) gets a desperately needed upgrade in their new special edition with a pleasantly clean and steady transfer that easily outdoes their prior, non-anamorphic edition. In the film, laissez-faire hitman Ming (Leon Lai Ming) has his assignments arranged by pretty agent Michele Reis, whom he never communicates with in person. His decision to duck out of the business coincides with the activities of a mute ex-con He Qiwu (same character name, same actor), whose affliction might be connected to the previous film. Serving as sort of a loose sequel, Fallen Angels is obviously a less free-spirited work given its subject matter but still brims with enough heady emotions in classic Wong Kar Wai style, all served up with the usual dollops of dazzling Doyle imagery (with a surprising emphasis on hand-held camerawork here) and judicious use of pop standards. Extras here are identical to the previous two Kino titles.

The only genuine special edition of the batch, 1997's Happy Together, is easily the director's most controversial title as it brought together two Hong Kong matinee idols and Wong Kar Wai staples, Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung, as a pair of emotionally tortured gay lovers, complete with an opening sex scene that sent hordes of schoolgirls into shock. An expatriate Hong Kong couple living in Buenos Aireas, Ho Po-wing (Cheung) and Lai Yiu-fai (Leung), finds the break-up process difficult to maintain when the former decides to become a hustler and ends up beaten and bruised, back in his ex-lover's arms. Despite the chipper title, this is probably the director's bleakest film; for some reason the transposition of his thwarted romantic leanings to a gay storyline comes off as catty and downbeat as the lovers squabble, moan, and essentially wallow in misery, unable to sever their ties. It's certainly in keeping with many real life relationships and both actors pull off their roles marvelously (despite Leung's misgivings about the content), but the end result proves to be more exhausting and despairing than insightful. On the other hand, it's commendable that the director never makes the common commercial mistake of stumbling into gay bathos (e.g., Philadelphia) or catty stereotyping (take your pick), making the film a curious almost-success that's commendable more for what it attempts than what it achieves. Fortunately the trademark cinematography and directorial style make this a must for the director's fans, and the DVD delivers with a greatly improved anamorphic transfer and a terrific 1999 one-hour documentary, "Buenos Aires Diaries," featuring tons of on-set footage and coverage of the various locations and participants from the film.

All in all, each film here looks as good as (or better than) it ever has on home video before, and even fans who already own Chungking Express by itself will still find the set a worthy upgrade. Of course, the fact that two of the films are new to American home video and essential viewing in and of themselves makes this a shoo-in for anyone with more than a passing interest in one of world cinema's most consistently adventurous and dynamic directorial talents.

For more information about The Wong Kar-Wai Collection, visit Kino International. To order The Wong Kar-Wai Collection, go to TCM Shopping.

by Nathaniel Thompson

The Wong Kar-Wai Collection

With only eight films to his name since 1988, director Wong Kar Wai carved a niche for himself as an international art house favorite whose dreamy style, fractured narratives and sweeping, pop-flavored romanticism make each of his releases an event. First introduced to American audiences via Miramax's release of his third film, Chungking Express, he proved himself to be far more than the indie flavor of the month with a succession of groundbreaking films including the award-winning In the Mood for Love. After years of substandard video transfers and scattershot distribution, Kino has collected five of his pre-In the Mood films (skipping the unavailable masterpiece Ashes of Time, which is still afflicted with a dreadful presentation on DVD) and allows for a thorough (albeit pricey) appraisal of his early career. His debut feature, As Tears Go By, earns much of its mileage from the dynamic teaming of Hong Kong superstars Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau, and Jacky Cheung in an openly acknowledged riff on Martin Scorses's Mean Streets, complete with soulful music interludes (not surprising given the Stones-inspired title), street violence, and pained romance. Two triad members in Kowloon, capable but violence-prone Wah (Lau) and younger, impetuous Fly (Jacky Cheung), find their lives changed with the arrival of Wah's beautiful, sweet-natured cousin, Ngor (Maggie Cheung); as the two men go about their brutal daily business, Wah finds himself yearning for a better, more stable life. Beautifully shot and fascinating as a blueprint for the director's subsequent, less violent fare, As Tears Go By was generally lost in the deluge of flashy crime films pouring out of Hong Kong in the wake of A Better Tomorrow; indeed, when seen in context with later films the main attraction here is the delicate interplay of color, shadow, and the actors' carefully measured expressions rather than the occasional explosions of brutality. However, all of this feels like a mere dry run compared to his next film and first bona fide classic, 1991's Days of Being Wild. All three stars return along with some significant new cast additions; equally significant is the first participation of regular cinematographer Christopher Doyle, now justifiably regarded as one of the best in the business. Set in 1960, the multi-layered story begins with a fickle lothario, Yuddy (Leslie Cheung), picking up and then rejecting Su Lizhen (Maggie Cheung, playing perhaps the same character seen later in In the Mood for Love), who takes the breakup so badly she fails to see the far more worthwhile attentions of a well-intentioned policeman (Andy Lau) in her neighborhood. A mood piece par excellence, the film follows each character's path through a series of bittersweet disappointments and surprises, all accompanied by ravishing visuals and the director's skillful deployment of music to strike the perfect emotional counterpoint. Both of these early titles look adequate but unspectacular on DVD, with anamorphic transfers similar to the ones seen previously on their Region 3 releases in Hong Kong. Blacks are a bit on the pale side, but colors are strong enough. Both prints are at least better than the ones circulating in repertory houses (HK films from this period are notoriously hard to see in decent condition), and the stereo audio sounds fine. (The Region 3 discs included forced and overamped 5.1 mixes, so the two-channel mix here is actually easier to endure.) Both discs include trailers for their respective films as well as Kino's future Wong Kar Wai releases, along with filmographies and still galleries. In keeping with the welcome trend of studios cross-pollinating each other's DVD box sets to aid collectors, the Kino set includes one outside entry, Buena Vista's release of Chungking Express (1994), released earlier as a stand-alone title. A story in two interlocking halves, the film follows a pair of peculiar romances. Heartbroken cop He Qiwu, Officer 233 (House of Flying Daggers' Takeshi Kaneshiro), spends his spare hours ruminating over his ex-girlfriend and buying relevant cans of produce, while bewigged smugger Brigitte Lin is on the run after a double-cross sends her fleeing into the streets. Meanwhile checkout girl Faye (Faye Wang) becomes fascinated with lovelorn Police Officer 663 (Tony Leung) and uses access to his apartment key as a means to explore his inner life and take advantage of his surroundings while he's away. However, their separate lives are bound to collide and indeed do so in a most surprising manner. Though not the full-blown special edition this title deserves, the DVD is more than adequate with a sterling transfer (easily besting its earlier releases in other regions), a catchy 2.0 sound mix, the theatrical trailer, and for better or worse, wraparound segments featuring Quentin Tarantino, whose Rolling Thunder (a subsidiary of Miramax) released the film theatrically in the U.S. At least he's more sincere and subdued here than most of his other Rolling Thunder lectures, which come across like nails on a chalkboard. (See Curdled for one egregious example.) Based on a story planned for but nixed from Chungking Express, the Kino staple Fallen Angels (1995) gets a desperately needed upgrade in their new special edition with a pleasantly clean and steady transfer that easily outdoes their prior, non-anamorphic edition. In the film, laissez-faire hitman Ming (Leon Lai Ming) has his assignments arranged by pretty agent Michele Reis, whom he never communicates with in person. His decision to duck out of the business coincides with the activities of a mute ex-con He Qiwu (same character name, same actor), whose affliction might be connected to the previous film. Serving as sort of a loose sequel, Fallen Angels is obviously a less free-spirited work given its subject matter but still brims with enough heady emotions in classic Wong Kar Wai style, all served up with the usual dollops of dazzling Doyle imagery (with a surprising emphasis on hand-held camerawork here) and judicious use of pop standards. Extras here are identical to the previous two Kino titles. The only genuine special edition of the batch, 1997's Happy Together, is easily the director's most controversial title as it brought together two Hong Kong matinee idols and Wong Kar Wai staples, Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung, as a pair of emotionally tortured gay lovers, complete with an opening sex scene that sent hordes of schoolgirls into shock. An expatriate Hong Kong couple living in Buenos Aireas, Ho Po-wing (Cheung) and Lai Yiu-fai (Leung), finds the break-up process difficult to maintain when the former decides to become a hustler and ends up beaten and bruised, back in his ex-lover's arms. Despite the chipper title, this is probably the director's bleakest film; for some reason the transposition of his thwarted romantic leanings to a gay storyline comes off as catty and downbeat as the lovers squabble, moan, and essentially wallow in misery, unable to sever their ties. It's certainly in keeping with many real life relationships and both actors pull off their roles marvelously (despite Leung's misgivings about the content), but the end result proves to be more exhausting and despairing than insightful. On the other hand, it's commendable that the director never makes the common commercial mistake of stumbling into gay bathos (e.g., Philadelphia) or catty stereotyping (take your pick), making the film a curious almost-success that's commendable more for what it attempts than what it achieves. Fortunately the trademark cinematography and directorial style make this a must for the director's fans, and the DVD delivers with a greatly improved anamorphic transfer and a terrific 1999 one-hour documentary, "Buenos Aires Diaries," featuring tons of on-set footage and coverage of the various locations and participants from the film. All in all, each film here looks as good as (or better than) it ever has on home video before, and even fans who already own Chungking Express by itself will still find the set a worthy upgrade. Of course, the fact that two of the films are new to American home video and essential viewing in and of themselves makes this a shoo-in for anyone with more than a passing interest in one of world cinema's most consistently adventurous and dynamic directorial talents. For more information about The Wong Kar-Wai Collection, visit Kino International. To order The Wong Kar-Wai Collection, go to TCM Shopping. by Nathaniel Thompson

Leslie Cheung, 1956-2003


Leslie Cheung, the Chinese singer and actor who won international acclaim for his role as a homosexual opera singer who commits suicide in the Oscar-nominated Farewell My Concubine (1993), died after leaping from a hotel in Hong Kong on April 1. He was 46.

Cheung was born on September 12, 1956 in Hong Kong, the youngest of ten children. He was fascinated by cinema from an early age (his father was the tailor to screen legend William Holden) and following graduation from secondary school, he studied drama at Leeds University in Great Britain. Upon his return to Hong Kong, he entered in the 1976 ATV Asian Music Contest, and took second prize. Cheung used this opportunity to cultivate his first taste of stardom as one of Asia's most popular singers and a celebrity to Chinese-speaking people around the world.

His high profile in pop music led to some film work, which at first was light, teen fare. The turning point came when John Woo cast him as the rookie cop opposite Chow Yun-fat in the wildly popular Hong Kong action flick A Better Tomorrow (1986). The film's success allowed Cheung to expand his film range and his next role was as an opium-smoking playboy in Stanley Kwan's Rouge (1987), a romantic ghost story that fluctuated between the Hong Kong of the '30s and the '80s. That film helped Cheung present his versatility as a romantic leading man as well as his skill at action sequences.

The '90s saw Cheung steadily improve as an actor with some varied roles: a cunning jewel thief in John Woo's slick suspense drama, Once a Thief (1990); a suave villain in Wong Kar-Wai's Days of Being Wild (1991); and his extraordinary star turn as the gay, female-impersonating Chinese opera singer Cheng Dieyi in Chen Kaige's brilliant historical drama Farewell My Concubine (1993). His portrayal of Cheng, who experiences bitterness and regret throughout his life, and is driven to suicide by a failed love affair, was one of great sensitivity, and an incandescent charisma that few knew he possessed. The film won the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and rightly earned Cheung international acclaim.

Cheung continued to tackle interesting parts after the success of Concubine: a depraved opium addict in another stylish film by Chen Kaige, Temptress Moon (1996); a gutsy performance as the vituperative Ho Po-wing, one of a pair of gay Chinese lovers on holiday in Buenos Aires in Wong Kar-Wai's sexually explicit Happy Together (1997); and most recently, a man possessed by a dead girlfriend who tries to lure him into jumping to his death (another eerie parallel to his own suicide) in Chi-Leung Law's horror film Inner Senses (2002), which earned him a best actor at this last Sunday's Hong Kong Film Awards. He is survived by numerous family members.

by Michael T. Toole

Leslie Cheung, 1956-2003

Leslie Cheung, the Chinese singer and actor who won international acclaim for his role as a homosexual opera singer who commits suicide in the Oscar-nominated Farewell My Concubine (1993), died after leaping from a hotel in Hong Kong on April 1. He was 46. Cheung was born on September 12, 1956 in Hong Kong, the youngest of ten children. He was fascinated by cinema from an early age (his father was the tailor to screen legend William Holden) and following graduation from secondary school, he studied drama at Leeds University in Great Britain. Upon his return to Hong Kong, he entered in the 1976 ATV Asian Music Contest, and took second prize. Cheung used this opportunity to cultivate his first taste of stardom as one of Asia's most popular singers and a celebrity to Chinese-speaking people around the world. His high profile in pop music led to some film work, which at first was light, teen fare. The turning point came when John Woo cast him as the rookie cop opposite Chow Yun-fat in the wildly popular Hong Kong action flick A Better Tomorrow (1986). The film's success allowed Cheung to expand his film range and his next role was as an opium-smoking playboy in Stanley Kwan's Rouge (1987), a romantic ghost story that fluctuated between the Hong Kong of the '30s and the '80s. That film helped Cheung present his versatility as a romantic leading man as well as his skill at action sequences. The '90s saw Cheung steadily improve as an actor with some varied roles: a cunning jewel thief in John Woo's slick suspense drama, Once a Thief (1990); a suave villain in Wong Kar-Wai's Days of Being Wild (1991); and his extraordinary star turn as the gay, female-impersonating Chinese opera singer Cheng Dieyi in Chen Kaige's brilliant historical drama Farewell My Concubine (1993). His portrayal of Cheng, who experiences bitterness and regret throughout his life, and is driven to suicide by a failed love affair, was one of great sensitivity, and an incandescent charisma that few knew he possessed. The film won the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and rightly earned Cheung international acclaim. Cheung continued to tackle interesting parts after the success of Concubine: a depraved opium addict in another stylish film by Chen Kaige, Temptress Moon (1996); a gutsy performance as the vituperative Ho Po-wing, one of a pair of gay Chinese lovers on holiday in Buenos Aires in Wong Kar-Wai's sexually explicit Happy Together (1997); and most recently, a man possessed by a dead girlfriend who tries to lure him into jumping to his death (another eerie parallel to his own suicide) in Chi-Leung Law's horror film Inner Senses (2002), which earned him a best actor at this last Sunday's Hong Kong Film Awards. He is survived by numerous family members. by Michael T. Toole

Happy Together


When Cantonese actor and beloved Hong Kong entertainer Leslie Cheung committed suicide April 1, 2003 by jumping from the landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel, many cinephiles took time to reflect on a career that was sadly cut short but was nonetheless rich and prolific and included collaborations with directors such as Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine ), John Woo (A Better Tomorrow), and Tsui Hark (The Chinese Feast). But perhaps the most revealing film to serendipitously tap into issues that may have actually plagued the actor in real life is one that offers both a glimpse into his intense acting range and one that also serves as an inspiration in cinematic style; Happy Together. This film by Hong Kong director and virtuoso Wong Kar-Wai and his frequent Australian collaborator and cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, won an award for Best Director at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival and was also nominated for a Golden Palm.

Happy Together opens with an enigmatic helicopter shot of Iguazu Falls. It's a jaw-dropping sight of the crescent-shaped rim that stretches out along Argentina's border with Brazil for two-and-a-half miles and where 275 individual cascades merge into a thunderous waterfall that plummets for 269 feet and whose roar can be heard several miles away. It's also a long ways from home for our protagonists, Ho Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) and Lai Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), two gay lovers who have left Hong Kong in one of many efforts to kick-start their relationship and who never quite make it to their destination. Lai's more emotionally centered personality is pitted against Ho's volatile outbursts, and the emotional problems are mirrored in the many crumbling but picturesque interiors that they frequent. The filmmakers palette swerves between black-and-white footage, searing color photography, different film stocks, and various exposure rates, to name but a few of the flourishes that abound. What's refreshing is how the abundance of style never feels like it's at the service of mindless commercialism and instead genuinely evokes both the exotic and universal as it veers between exile and alienation and the human longing to connect.

Wong Kar-Wai tackles a difficult and grim subject with aplomb and manages to also sprinkle in some Frank Zappa songs, a Turtle cover, and a reference to The Blind Swordsman along the way. But the performances by Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai are what really hold the film together. The amusing trivia regarding the latter actor, according to the Internet Movie Data Base, is that he "agreed to do the film on the basis of a fake script and only learned of the requirement of doing a gay sex scene after arriving in Argentina for filming." The not so amusing fact regarding Leslie Cheung is that no deception was needed to have him play a self-destructive character whose personal demons, in hindsight, probably did reside a little too close to home.

Kino's dvd release of Happy Together features the theatrical trailer and 12 chapter stops. The cropping is a bit tight along the subtitles for some scenes but the picture and composition never feel compromised and image quality boasts a solid transfer with strong and vibrant colors, letterboxed at 1.85:1.

For more information about Happy Together, visit Kino International. To order Happy Together, go to TCM Shopping.

by Pablo Kjolseth

Happy Together

When Cantonese actor and beloved Hong Kong entertainer Leslie Cheung committed suicide April 1, 2003 by jumping from the landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel, many cinephiles took time to reflect on a career that was sadly cut short but was nonetheless rich and prolific and included collaborations with directors such as Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine ), John Woo (A Better Tomorrow), and Tsui Hark (The Chinese Feast). But perhaps the most revealing film to serendipitously tap into issues that may have actually plagued the actor in real life is one that offers both a glimpse into his intense acting range and one that also serves as an inspiration in cinematic style; Happy Together. This film by Hong Kong director and virtuoso Wong Kar-Wai and his frequent Australian collaborator and cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, won an award for Best Director at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival and was also nominated for a Golden Palm. Happy Together opens with an enigmatic helicopter shot of Iguazu Falls. It's a jaw-dropping sight of the crescent-shaped rim that stretches out along Argentina's border with Brazil for two-and-a-half miles and where 275 individual cascades merge into a thunderous waterfall that plummets for 269 feet and whose roar can be heard several miles away. It's also a long ways from home for our protagonists, Ho Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) and Lai Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), two gay lovers who have left Hong Kong in one of many efforts to kick-start their relationship and who never quite make it to their destination. Lai's more emotionally centered personality is pitted against Ho's volatile outbursts, and the emotional problems are mirrored in the many crumbling but picturesque interiors that they frequent. The filmmakers palette swerves between black-and-white footage, searing color photography, different film stocks, and various exposure rates, to name but a few of the flourishes that abound. What's refreshing is how the abundance of style never feels like it's at the service of mindless commercialism and instead genuinely evokes both the exotic and universal as it veers between exile and alienation and the human longing to connect. Wong Kar-Wai tackles a difficult and grim subject with aplomb and manages to also sprinkle in some Frank Zappa songs, a Turtle cover, and a reference to The Blind Swordsman along the way. But the performances by Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai are what really hold the film together. The amusing trivia regarding the latter actor, according to the Internet Movie Data Base, is that he "agreed to do the film on the basis of a fake script and only learned of the requirement of doing a gay sex scene after arriving in Argentina for filming." The not so amusing fact regarding Leslie Cheung is that no deception was needed to have him play a self-destructive character whose personal demons, in hindsight, probably did reside a little too close to home. Kino's dvd release of Happy Together features the theatrical trailer and 12 chapter stops. The cropping is a bit tight along the subtitles for some scenes but the picture and composition never feel compromised and image quality boasts a solid transfer with strong and vibrant colors, letterboxed at 1.85:1. For more information about Happy Together, visit Kino International. To order Happy Together, go to TCM Shopping. by Pablo Kjolseth

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Winner of the best actor award (Tony Leung) at the 1998 Hong Kong Film Awards.

Winner of Best Director (Wong Kar-Wai) at 1997 Cannes International Film Festival.

Released in United States Fall October 12, 1997

Released in United States October 31, 1997

Released in United States on Video October 2, 1998

Released in United States 1997

Released in United States October 1997

Released in United States 1998

Released in United States January 2000

Shown at Montreal World Film Festival August 22 - September 2, 1997.

Shown at New York Film Festival September 26 - October 12, 1997.

Shown at Vancouver International Film Festival September 26 - October 12, 1997.

Shown at Denver International Film Festival October 23-30, 1997.

Shown at Mill Valley Film Festival October 2-12, 1997.

Shown at Brisbane International Film Festival July 30 - August 9, 1998.

Released in United States Fall October 12, 1997 (NY)

Released in United States October 31, 1997 (Los Angeles)

Released in United States on Video October 2, 1998

Released in United States 1997 (Shown at Montreal World Film Festival August 22 - September 2, 1997.)

Released in United States 1997 (Shown at New York Film Festival September 26 - October 12, 1997.)

Released in United States 1997 (Shown at Vancouver International Film Festival September 26 - October 12, 1997.)

Released in United States October 1997 (Shown at Denver International Film Festival October 23-30, 1997.)

Released in United States October 1997 (Shown at Mill Valley Film Festival October 2-12, 1997.)

Released in United States 1998 (Shown at Brisbane International Film Festival July 30 - August 9, 1998.)

Released in United States January 2000 (Shown in New York City (Anthology Film Archives) as part of program "Kino International Retrospective" January 6-27, 2000.)