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An Analysis of the 1997 Film Happy Together

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Henry Aspinall

on 11 May 2015

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Transcript of An Analysis of the 1997 Film Happy Together

An Analysis of the 1997 Film Happy Together
The Director: Wong Kar-Wai
The 'premier auteur' of Hong Kong cinema.
Although influenced by the French New Wave, his films are primarily inspired by their physical and social environments.
How is this conveyed in
Happy Together
?
Wong's Stylistic Influence
(i) Mise-en-scene:
The significance of the waterfall;
map;
cigarettes;
Introduction to the Presentation
Topics to be discussed:
Contextual background to the film and its relation to the second wave of Hong Kong film making.
Wong Kar-Wai and his role as an auteur.
Homosexuality in Chinese cinema.
The Film's Critical Acclaim
Happy Together a metaphor for Hong Kong in 1997
Happy together has a feeling of
rootlessness
about it. It is a parable for Hong Kong: a city of East and West that was suffering an identity crisis during the time of the handover.
The setting of Argentina
compounded the theme of exile which was prominent in Hong Kong thought at the time.
Shifting identity
, lack of security and purposelessness of an unknown future – causes associated with both homosexuality and postmodern Hong Kong.

The Film's Content
"... all my films are not stories. I think they are more about characters. The story line is not strong."

Wong Kar-Wai
Hong Kong cinema in the 1990s
Drastic decline in HK film industry due to lack of ticket sales and lower number of films being produced. This was due to Asian financial crisis, the rise of Hollywood films and the increase in pirated material.
Most popular films still remained Kung Fu /gangster movies.
Second Wave of filmmakers emerge, lead by Wong Kar-Wai, Stanley Kwang and Peter Chan.

The Story in Short...
(ii) Use of Colour
Colour is used to convey feelings of melancholy and longing, to separate narratemes and as an artistic tool.
(iii) Cinematography
Conveys the fractured nature of Po-wing and Yiu-fai's relationship.
The overwhelming urban landscapes of Buenos Aires and Hong Kong that they inhabit.
Playfully reference his other films such as
Chungking Express.
Homosexuality in Chinese Cinema
Is Happy Together necessarily a gay film?
Ambiguity of the sexuality within the narrative.
Film focuses on themes of love, regret and retribution which are common within all relationships.
Conclusion
The film was critically acclaimed both in Hong Kong and abroad.
It was nominated for the 1997 Palme d'Or, with Wong Kar- Wai winning 'Best Director' at the Cannes Film Festival.
The New York Times said the film was more heartfelt and accessible than Wong's previous films.
At the Hong Kong Film Awards, Leslie Cheung won best actor, with the film picking up numerous other nominations.


Previous films which touch on homosexuality in China were Ang Lee's
The Wedding Banquet
and Chen Kaige's
Farewell My Concubine.
Many of the portrayals of gay and lesbian society deal with how chinese societal attitudes affect their daily life.
Social struggle of homosexual chinese characters reflects the ambiguous relationship that exists between the State and the gay community.
Homosexuality in chinese society
According to statistics, 10% of China's population identifies as homosexual. 20% of Chinese people approve of homosexual relations whilst 80% disapprove.
Accordingly, many Chinese homosexuals feel oppressed.
However, it may be argued that younger generations are more approving of homosexuality in Chinese society. Example: Fǔ nǚ.
The depiction of homosexuality in Happy Together
Happy Together is a seminal film.
It acts as a parable for the atmospheres in Hong Kong in 1997.
Wong Kar Wai is an auteur whose artistic vision drives the narrative.
For example, his use of colour is a key device which evokes feelings of melancholy.
The subject of homosexuality in Chinese cinema is broached in the film, but is it necessarily a gay film?
Full transcript