Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls

Joe Besl

Happy Together, Wang Kar-wai's emotional tale of two lovers stranded in Buenos Aires, reflects his opinions on denial and camaraderie. The two main characters are both willing and able to admit that their relationship was not meant to be, but the isolation of living at the symbolic "edge of the world" continues to bring them back together. Kar-Wai makes the assumption that life without friends is impossible: both Ho Po-wing and Lai Yiu-fai despise each other but continue living in the same apartment due to the lack of alternate and legitimate relationships in their lives. Both characters pine for an uplifting friendship but the superficial people they encounter on a daily basis continue to drive them towards each other. The most depressing fact is the two don't realize they are even depressed. It seems both attribute their frustration to the other's presence rather than to their own desperate situations. But the two characters never blame themselves. It hardly occurs to either that they are the problems in their own lives even when Ho Po-wing and Lai Yiu-Fai move from Hong Kong to the other side of the planet to leave their loneliness behind. Wang Kar-wai's Happy Together is essentially a commentary on the enduring effects of loneliness.

Most intrinsic to the plot is Lai Yiu-Fai relationships both with Ho Po-wing and with his co-worker Hsiao Chang. As the film progresses it seems impossible that Yiu-Fai and Po-Wing were ever in a loving relationship: they constantly bicker, they make out and then fall apart, and they hold each other back from ever accomplishing something with their current dead-end lifestyles. Basically, Po-Wing is as distant from Yiu-Fai as China and Argentina are, but their haphazard love affair continues to exist because both have developed dependencies. To them, being unhappy is better than being lonely so they return home to the same hostile hostel each night.

Lai Yui-Fai's only time away from his bitter apartment is spent at work in a restaurant kitchen. Global nomad Hsiao Chang also takes up work in the kitchen and soon enough the common bond of language sparks a basic friendship. Both characters lack and starve for a legitimate friendship and their time spent together suffices as enjoyment. Yui-Fai finds Chang interesting for his supernatural sense of hearing, a result of his childhood sight problems. Despite Chang's knowledge, he offers Yiu-Fai the desirable image of a role model and Yiu-Fai continues to see Chang not for sexual purposes, but because he envies Chang's goals and aspirations. It wasn't until his mid-thirties that Yiu-Fai finally met someone admirable, and it only proves to himself that he is lost in his own life. Ironically, a once-blind man wakes him up to his blind search for a genuine relationship.

Blindness plays another key factor as both Yiu-fai and Po-Wing are too oblivious and blind to realize they act as catalysts to the destruction of their own relationship. Hong Kong was not to blame for the first rocky patch in their relationship, but rather it was their separate and superficial aspirations. The two are too stubborn to realize that they are as polar opposite as Hong Kong and Buenos Aires. Wang Kar-wai created Happy Together as a way of expressing his views on loneliness. To him, loneliness is both natural and inescapable but it is only dangerous when it goes unrecognized. Kar-Wai's characters are both so depressing and so watchable because the audience sees what they cannot: that people are responsible for their own fate. Kar-wai constantly references loneliness by including all the character flashbacks to times when they were satisfied with life. Only the emotional, current, and horrific scenes are played in color to emphasize the reality of depression, rage, and the detachment from everyday life.

Inverted Adventure

Shanna Wolthuis

Happy Together, even though the movie barely sets foot there, is a love song to Hong Kong. The moment you catch this is when Chang narrates that Argentina is Hong Kong upside down, followed by a montage of inverted pictures of HK. Fai followed Ho Po-wing there for a brief excursion to see a waterfall, but got lost along the way.

He got lost in a dingy world of small buildings and disconnected people. It was an excursion from the bustle of the city, and, even though he works at a busy nightclub, Fai is silent, sitting on the doorstep and drinking. All the vectors of Hong Kong go up, but this world was a waterfall, shown always to be with him in the character of his lamp which gleams like one with painted on falls.
Ho Po-wing is a casualty of the modern city. He is someone who can never stick with something, and live out his life. He constantly needs to start over, and reinvent himself with the face of another outcast on the train ride of life. He gets caught up in his troubles until, every time, he comes crawling back to the stability of Fai. He cannot live the directed progressive life which modern cities demand, and therefore gets left behind and eaten by the dogs in dusty Buenos Aires.

Chang comes into the picture and enlightens Fai. He talks to Fai about listening, and what Chang hears from Fai on the other end of his tape recorder is only sobbing, which he sends off the end of the world. Once Fai's troubles have been cast off, he is ready to return to his true love, Hong Kong, with the knowledge of having seen the waterfall. Chang and Fai are like children rebelling against their upbringing, needing to see the world before they come back home. Fai has wronged his father by stealing his money, wronged his culture, but he is ready to come back and start again. His adventure is shared with Hong Kong, a nation not quite a nation, as Fai and Ho have the British passports. But, after a bit of soul searching independence, Fai is ready to just be what he is in the city which he truly loves, as the song "Happy Together" plays as he rides the train throughout his illustrious home city.

Happy Alone, Happy Together

Tiffany Speegle

Kar Wai Wong perfectly summed up his film Happy Together when he said in an interview, "Happy Together applies not only to the relationship between two persons, but also the relationship between one person and his past. If people are at peace with themselves and their past, this is the start of being able to be happy with someone else." Two lovers' quest for happiness is the clearest theme in Wong's Happy Together. Yiu-Fai Lai and Po-Wing Ho are gay lovers who leave Hong Kong together and travel to Argentina in hopes of starting a new, more satisfying life. In these last waning moments of their relationship, they struggle to achieve true happiness, only to find that it is impossible to be "happy together" unless they can first happy with their personal selves.

Po-Wing tends to be the more cold, callous, and violent partner in the relationship. Throughout the film, Po-Wing's poor decisions constantly haunt him. He cannot seem to escape the world of gambling and sexual promiscuity. His gambling habit incites violence towards others, which ultimately causes him to lose the use of his hands throughout most of the film. But his tendency towards physical violence could not possibly outweigh the effects of the emotional violence he forces onto his lover, Yiu-Fai.
Po-Wing's personal choices to pursue sexual relationships with other men leads Yiu-Fai onto an emotional roller-coaster, causing a series of break-ups and make-ups between the two lovers, which in turn leads to even more emotional hurt and distress. Po-Wing��s tears throughout the film prove that he is not even remotely happy with himself or his past decisions. In that case, how could he possibly be happy with Yiu-Fai?

Likewise, Yiu-Fai is not happy with his own past. He continually struggles with his strained relationship with his father. One might assume that traditional Chinese values caused Yiu-Fai's father to reject his son's homosexuality and perhaps even disown him. This very well might have caused Yiu-Fai to go on living his life in shame as an open homosexual. Perhaps he was not proud of himself for being a homosexual, and thus not happy with himself. Certainly, he was not at all happy that his personal choices had deeply affected his relationship with his father. Yiu-Fai's strained relationship with his father could have in turn caused his strained relationship with his male lover, Po-Wing.

The question remains: why did writer/director Kar Wai Wong entitle this film Happy Together, when none of the characters are really "happy together" at all? The answer rests in the film's hopeful ending. After months of crawling back to Po-Wing after all of their bad break-ups, Yiu-Fai finally decides to leave him and take care of his own needs. Yiu-Fai eventually realizes that, if he ever wants his long-term relationship with Po-Wing to succeed, he must revitalize his relationship with himself first. This being said, Yiu-Fai travels back to his roots in Hong Kong in search of his father. Perhaps if Yiu-Fai reconciles with his father back in China, then he can reconcile with himself, and thus finally reconcile with Po-Wing. Maybe this is what Kar Wai Wong was trying to tell us in this film: go back to your past, forgive those who have wronged you, forgive yourself for your own past decisions, and finally forgive those in your present life who will more than likely make a great impact on your future life.

Lost in Love

Tamutenda Chidawanyika

In the movie Happy Together, the first scene comprises of Lai Yiu - fai and Ho Po-wing, who are two Chinese homosexual men in their mid-thirties, having passionate and rough anal intercourse. Kar-wai Wong uses the roughness of the intercourse and the roughness of the cinematography in the opening scene to set the tone for the unrest which dominates the rest of the movie.
Kar-wai Wong allows the viewer to experience the pains of heartbreak and of losing a loved one. He focuses the camera on Lai Yiu-fai and therefore allows the audience to watch the deterioration of the relationship between Lai Yiu-fai and Ho-Po wing through the eyes of the victim in the relationship, Liu Yiu-fai. This tactic therefore not only allows the audience to experience the agony of losing a loved one on a first hand basis, but it also accumulates a larger audience since people are always interested in stories about conflict within love.

The title Happy Together for this movie is ironic since from the perspective of the viewer, Lai Yiu - fai and Ho Po-wing are anything but happy when they are together. However, they are also very unhappy when they are apart. Kar-wai Wong uses this predicament in their relationship to show that sometimes it is difficult for human beings to let go of things that they have become accustomed to and that they have created a comfort zone around, even if they know that whatever they are holding onto has the potential to cause them grief and harm. For instance, Ho Po-wing continuously abuses Lai Yiu - fai emotionally and verbally, but Lai Yiu - fai cannot detach himself from Ho Po-wing on a permanent basis without feeling guilty.

Another pivotal aspect of this movie is the waterfall lamp which is always present in Lai Yiu - fai's room. Kar-wai Wong uses the idea of a waterfall to represent the relationship shared between Lai Yiu - fai and Ho Po-wing. On the outside, the waterfall seems beautiful and somewhat calm and stable but on the inside, the waterfall is violent and unstable. Similarly, from the outside, the homosexual couple seems to accept one another for who they are as shown in their expressionless faces and in their monotonous voice tones but underneath the calm exterior, both of them, especially Lai Yiu - fai, are screaming for a release from this relationship. The falling water of the waterfall also represents their relationship in the sense that both parties are falling out of love at a drastic pace and nothing can be done to stop this process even if both of them try to pretend that they can just "start over again".

From the beginning of the movie, Lai Yiu - fai and Ho Po - wing both want to go to visit the Iquazu falls but on their first attempt to get there together, they get lost. However, when they finally do break up, Lai Yiu -fai manages to find the waterfall alone. Kar-wai Wong uses this incident to show that sometimes there is a need to let go of things that we are attached to and that we value so much, in order for us to be able to achieve our goals. If Lai Yiu - fai had not broken up with Ho Po - wing, he may not have ever been able to make it to the falls.

Hong Kong Revisited

Manu Samanna-Spagnoli

Happy Together is a story of confused identity. Ho Po-Win and Lai Yiu-Fai symbolize the struggles of relationships gone astray. The two, bound by a torn and dependent relationship, cannot seem to express their feelings for they have not yet found their identify. The lifestyles of these two raise many larger themes of culture and identity.

Ho Po-Wing's unfocused and mixed sense of self explains his attitudes toward life. He cannot maintain a steady relationship, engages in promiscuous behavior, and runs into trouble quite often. His mental capacity to sustain himself seems limited and his constant wondering portrays him as in an identity crisis. Therefore, he has a hard time trying to communicate his feelings or thoughts to his companion because, as it is in his present state, he cannot understand himself.

Ho Po-Wings lifestyle symbolizes both the attitudes of Hong Kong natives to mainlanders, and the identity issues that accompany city inhabitants. First, his actions, such as enjoying the nightlife, represent the city life of Hong Kong. He seems to suggest that Hong Kong still finds its lifestyle to be superior and as well more modernized than the mainland. This notion is represented by Ho Po-Wings reliance on and frustration with Lai Yiu-Fai, who may in contrast, represent mainland China. Ho Po-Wing's night endeavors, or his late night street conflicts, symbolize the actions of Hong Kong natives whose life styles reflect the roller coaster thrills of the modern city existence.

Second, Ho Po-Wing's lifestyle as well provides an interpretation of how the swiftness of city life alienates its population. Likewise, inhabitants endure mundane tasks that simply repeat themselves and hence offer no real foundation for identity creation. The scenes of moving traffic and fighting tenants seem to illustrate this idea nicely. In both cases, and with the actions of Ho Po-Wing, including his failing attempts to sustain a relationship, the viewer better understands the city dilemma.

Different from Ho Po-Wing, La Yiu-Fai symbolizes the parental role that mainland China has assumed over young adolescent Hong Kong, and his friendship with Hsiao Chang represents the desire for individuals to escape meaningless life at home. First, by way of his actions, La Yiu-Fai represents the caretaker of an anxious and wild partner. If La Yiu-Fai represents the mainland and Ho Po-Wing is Hong Kong, then the scene of intercourse clearly depicts La Yiu-Fai as in control and regulating Ho Po-Wing. However, Ho Po-Wing's confessed and resentful lifestyle might mirror that of Hong Kong. Nonetheless, La Yiu-Fai's continuing acceptance of Ho Po-Wing depicts the relationship existing between the mainland and Hong Kong.

Second, La Yiu-Fai's friendship with Hsiao Chang serves to represent the meaningless of life at home and the role of relationships. Both Hsiao Chang and Lai Yiu-Fai leave their homes to "start over" or find change. Yet, they have only found themselves in another city with still shallow lives. Furthermore, their friendship represents the interactions that create meaning in ones life. In this way, friendships may create identity and meaning in one's life.

A Place for Hong Kong to Go Next

Jiuwei Zhang

Happy Together is a film revolving around three people. Ho Po-wing and Lai Yiu-fai are gay partners from Hong Kong. They travel to Buenos Aires in Argentina and try to find a waterfall there that they have dreamt to see. Hsiao Chang, a Taiwanese who works in the same restaurant as Lai Yiu-fai in Buenos Aires, likes traveling to other countries and uses it as a way to not work in his father's food store in Taipei. As gay partners, Lai and Ho often fight and argue with each other. Their relationship has always been back and forth. Lai cooks food and cleans Ho��s body when Ho is hurt by foreigners. He even steals Ho's passport in order to make Ho stay longer with him. However, Lai finally leaves Ho and goes to the waterfall alone. Lai decides to go home because he is influenced by Hsiao Chang who Lai thinks is happy everyday because Hsiao Chang knows where he��s going next. In this film, all these characters are out of a home. Like Hong Kong people, they want to be home but for some reason they are not happy at home. Hong Kongese are always looking for their own places to go: being at home or out of home. The director of this film wants to use this film as a tool to show how Hong Kong lost its sense of belonging under the rule of Great Britain until 1997 when it was handed over to mainland China.

The film starts with the image of stamping passports. It does not only mean that both Lai and Ho have arrived in Argentina, but also indicates that Hong Kong people don't really have identity as they go everywhere. Because of the historical issue that both the Japanese and the British occupied Hong Kong, people in Hong Kong don't really know where they belong. Also, the director did a really good job choosing Buenos Aires as the backdrop of this story. The reason why they stay there is that they get lost on the way to the waterfall. This fact further indicates their disorientation and a lack of a moral compass.

Lai and Ho's relationship is another proof. Whenever Ho gets hurt, he always goes back to Lai and acts more girlish. It seems that Lai is like his home. But as soon as Ho gets better, he goes out and becomes sexually promiscuous with foreigners, which makes Lai extremely angry so that Lai steals Ho's passport as a way to forbid Ho from leaving him. Ho has the character that most Hong Kong people have, hoping to be home but never satisfied being home. It is the same reason why they leave Hong Kong. Lai leaves home because he can't get along with his father. Hsiao Chang leaves home because he doesn't want to work in his father's food store. When they are home, they want to get away from it, but as they are in Argentina, they really want to go back.

Hong Kong has been apart from mainland China for over a hundred years. Being as a colony, Hong Kong has lost its Chinese identity and its sense of belonging become very problematic. Lai's relation to his father is also characteristic of Hong Kong��s relation to the communist China before 1997 under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, who died the day before Lai returns to HK. In the end, Lai starts to call his Dad and write letters back to his home, meaning that Hong Kong begins to accept mainland China and wants to go back. The director also uses waterfall as a metaphor of being back. Water from different rivers gathers together, finally meets at one place and falls down, like people going back home.

This film gave me insight into the lives of Hong Kong people. Because of its history of as a colony, Hong Kong has always been lonely and "homeless" before 1997. Although it may have "generation gap" between mainland China and will be never satisfied, at least it finds a place to go. Like what Lai says at the end of this film, "Now I know the reason why Hsiao Chang can be happy to go everywhere is that he knows there's always a place waiting for him to go next." Maybe the time when Hong Kong finds where to go next is the time all the people in Hong Kong can be "Happy Together".

Strangers in a Common World

Lucy Zhang

As we live in a world of constantly changing values and people. People may get a sense of uncertainty about their personal identity and direction in life. Moving away from the hometown and escaping the normal life is common for a person in an identity crisis. That person would have personal relations with many people, but would not be able to recognize the validity and the importance of those relationships. He or she would drift from person to person without making a connection and be alone most of the time. Having identity crisis is a major issue for many Chinese in a changing world. They have no knowledge of where they belong and with whom they would have personal relations. Their direction in life is unclear and until they have made that connection to the world, they would keep on drifting. The movie, Happy Together, directed by Wang Kar-wai, is a perfect example of people having identity issues in personal relationships. The two men have no idea where their lives are headed and what they are doing. They have one common goal of leaving Hong Kong and visiting the falls. Throughout their unstable and complicated relationship, they fall in and out of love with each other and drift away.

Ho and Lai are gay lovers that decided to leave their home of Hong Kong and drift to Argentina with one common goal of visiting the falls. Throughout their rocky relationship, each of them does not know what they want in life. One is a constant drifter and craves sympathy as well as attention, and the other is an independent and strong willed character who stops at nothing to obtain what he desires. They both have no idea of where life would lead them. Lacking a consecutive plan in life, they both go with their instincts and attach themselves strongly to them. Lai is the strong willed character and shows genuine love for Ho but then refuses to take him back after countless breakups. Ho is unsure about his life and often becomes bored with Lai and thus, he runs away to find more new and exciting things to do. At the end, he always goes back to Lai for sympathy. Both of these men are quite confused about their love and both take their anger and frustrations on different things. Lai works to save money to get out of Argentina, and Lai goes out and finds sexual pleasures the same way Ho does while working in a tango bar. They keep falling in and out of their relationship which suggests their true uncertainties in life. Ho escapes and disappears from Lai's life and he will forever remain a drifter. Lai does eventually move on due to the fact that he saved up the money to go and see the falls. The falls was the climax of Lai��s life as he realized what he wanted in life and that he needed to patch things up with his father and heal the wounds within. His identity crisis has ended and finally found a reason to move on with this life and forget about Ho.

Being an outcast and escaping one��s fate and destiny is a horrible way of confronting the issue. As Lai becomes more and more aware of his personal status and needs, he is forced to realize that living a life in uncertainty can only lead to pain and suffering. Facing the facts and dealing with the problems is the main way to face one��s own identity.

Lai's Search for Meaning

Avery Harris

Happy Together, written and directed by Kar-Wai Wong is about a gay couple, Lai Yiu-Fai and Ho Po-Wing that experience a troubled relationship full of anything but happiness. They move to Buenos Aires from Hong Kong to start anew and end up getting stuck there. Their relationship is always stuck in first gear, never moving forward or changing. Breaking up and getting back together seems to happen regularly, thanks to Ho's immature personality. Lai is more mature, but has a hard time seeing that the relationship is not compatible. This film has a realism that every couple can identify with, from meaningless arguments to a longing lust for each other.

The narrative gives the film an interesting direction. Along with a rocky relationship there is a strong sociological perspective prevalent. Throughout the film, the working class districts of Buenos Aires are believingly conveyed on the screen. These depressed neighborhoods are symbolic of Lai and Ho's deteriorating relationship. Buenos Aires can be perceived as an allegory for the evils of modernity that trap Lai and Ho. The modernity corrupts Ho into becoming a whore and causes Lai to work two jobs in order to get back to Hong Kong. This harsh realism is balanced by an innovative filming technique that consists of black and white scenes that change to bold colors, depending on the mood.

Gay couples are a delicate issue in Hong Kong, even in their new wave of modernity. Gay lovers are still considered too liberal for this once conservative and traditionally moral based country. As the spread of modernity continues and films focused on gay couples are released, hopefully the bias will disappear. The film and their relationship shift completely when Lai meets Chang Chen at his new job in a Chinese restaurant. Their nonsexual friendship becomes the emotional center of the film. Chang portrays the free spirited open-mindedness of youth, however, there is a heart wrenching innocence to his character. Inspired by Chang, Lai goes back to Hong Kong expecting to find a wholeness that he lost in Buenos Aires. Hong Kong represents more than a trip home, it represents returning to culture, familiarity, and purity.

Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together has gorgeous cinematography and little essence. The style of the film is magnetic as it captures the streets of Buenos Aires. The unstable relationship of Lai and Ho portrays a realism that viewers around the world can understand. The couple is not happy together or apart, and they bounce between the two emotions. By the end of the film, Lai has made a full circle from his depressed life of lice, bad food and nicotine.

Diaspora and Loneliness

Frank King

The film Happy Together directed by Kar Wai Wong is film about the relationship people have with their homes and societies, and how it affects them even when the are not at home. The movie tries to effectively present its point through the actions of Ho Po-Wing a Lai Yui-Fai, but it get muddled up by two things. First, though less important in this day and age is the homosexuality of Po-Wing and Yui-Fai. Normally this is not a problem, but the film started with a 3 minute sex-scene between the two. I found this distracting, because though I have no problem with them being homosexual, even if the sex scene was heterosexual I would have felt the same way, I believe that it is their own business, and don't feel the need to see it. For a long while after this I kept coming back to it in my mind, not thinking about how the film was developing, but of the gratuitous sex at the opening. The second problem with the film was the cinematography. It was obviously filmed using a hand camera with out any form of stabilization; this gave it a very jerky, unbalanced feeling. This may be in tune with the feelings of the characters in the movie, but it is hard to follow their actions, and especially subtitles, when it is made in such a way. The other part of the cinematography that hampered the effectiveness of the film was the filters; the use of both color and b/w film in the movie was not creative and idea at this point, it switched to color when Po-Wing and Yui-Fai got back together again, like Dorothy's transportation to OZ. Even then the color was so oversaturated, that it gave to much emphasis to the colors and became distracting from the dialogue and actions, the main medium that the movie was using to convey its message.

However, its message was a very important one. It was that where ever you go and what ever you do the effects of where you were raised follow you. This is shown by what is learned about both Yui-Fai and Po-Wing. We learn that Yui-Fai is a criminal; he embezzled money from the company he worked for. He feels very responsible for this, and that he must make it up to his father, who got him the job. This is the root of his dedication to return to Hong-Kong, he needs to fulfill his obligations. The reason he left Hong-Kong was the he did not feel happy within the world he was living in, but he found as so many others did that if you can't solve your problems at home it doesn't mean they will go a way when you leave it. Po-Wing left very different world behind, he knows that his family will do anything for him that they can no matter what he does; this is the reason he acts so careless, he is secure in the knowledge that he will always be cared for. The people show two different sides of people who leave their homes and how they are both lonely. Kar Wai Wong is saying that to leave you home makes you lonely, no matter what the reason, no matter if returning means you are welcomed or not. Happy Together is about the ramifications of loneliness and not solving your problems, but running away from them. Wong uses this as a social commentary on the Chinese populace, he is critical of how they are immigrating to places like the U.S. when they can, he thinks they should solve their problems at home, so that they can remain one people.

Hong Kong: potentially homosexual, in need of guidance

Jose Hasemann

Wang Kar-Wai's Happy Together deals with two Hong Kong ex-patriots trying to make a living in Argentina. Ho Po-Wing and Lai Yui Fai, the main characters, are both homosexuals. Ho Po-wing embraces his sexuality in a more open fashion than Fai does. Po-wing's extreme promiscuity exposes the homosexual venues in Argentina and also displays his own fears of rejection and solitude. Fai is the stable counter part in the relationship, he does not even exhibit the mannerisms or tendencies that Po-wing does. Their relationship is a bitter one that persists because Fai is afraid of being left alone and Po-wing is a parasite that comes back to Fai because he know he will get what he wants. The third main character would come to be Hsiao Chang, no clear sexual inclination can be determined but he does display an attraction for Fai. Not necessarily a sexual one. Chang shows a keen interest in the life of Fai, but is more of a support beam than anything else.

The film shows the failed relationship between Fai and Po-wing, the audience is brought in to view the deviated tendencies of their relationship and invited to see the final days of the relationships existence. Po-wing never changes and continues to cheat on Fai, Fai finally gives up and resigns himself to help Po-wing one last time so as to avoid guilt. Chang at this moment becomes Fai's drinking buddy and simply listens to what Fai has to say, allowing him to open up and deal with his sentiments. In the end this helps him make the decision to leave for HK and go see his father, the end of the movie.

I see the story noted above as only a superficial gloss over the film. Taking into account the politics of transition between Hong Kong and China and Taiwan's similar colony status to Japan, the characters take on new vocalities. Po-wing is with out a doubt a rebel Hong Kong, without morals, a verifiable whore to the white people. He has become lost in Argentina, and can't see he needs a greater guidance. Fai, on the other hand, repents the decisions he has made, which in the most part have been made to please Po-wing. Fai's active decision to move back to Hong Kong is inspired by his need to find a home and forgiveness from his father. Forgiveness that entails guidance and a stable relationship to solidify his life and goals, his father comes to represent China and the stable emotional and moral guidance it would bring to Hong Kong. One of Hong Kong major concerns at the time of transition was without a doubt the loss of economic wealth that they would experience, which is prompted, I believe, by the money Fai is bringing back to Hong Kong to repay his debts.

The homosexual representation of all three characters symbolizes a loose life devoid of strong moral conviction that ends in an ultimate corruption of spirit, at least from the religious point of view. Hsiao Chang only displays tendencies but never clearly expresses any tendency; in the end it is more the spirit of servitude and enlightenment that he comes to represent. He plays the role of an integrated Taiwan, free to wonder about as he pleases but with a support group present if he ever decides to go back. He has allies and protectors. Something Fai is missing in his life. Ultimately, the Hong Kong ex-patriots are faced with the decision of improving their lives or continue to be nothing more than a fun time for the white devils.

Happy Together

Mitch Storar

Kar-wai Wong's film, Happy Together, epitomizes the confused notion of cultural identity as it manifests in Hong Kong. At the start of the film, we are introduced to Ho Po-wing and Lai Yiu-fai, embracing one another in black and white. Their situation is so incredibly unlikely and bizarre (Hong Kongese by birth, British by citizenship, residing in Argentina, and apparently estranged from society for their homosexuality all over the world), that they appear to have fallen through the cracks of cultural identity. We, quite literally, have no logical place to put this couple in our traditional understanding of social order.

In my mind, personification of Ho Po-wing and Lai Yiu-fai as social anomalies is meant to embody the oddity of Hong Kong society itself. Their displacement from their home serves merely to emphasize this point. Through this film, we see Hong Kong as a conflux of clashing cultural identities, and, perhaps even more fascinating, we see an apparent lack of interest on the part of the characters to sort out their situation. They are accepting of their ghostly exile, though not without a certain level of latent remorse. It is telling that Hsiao Chang, a Taiwanese man living in much the same conditions as Ho Po-wing and Lai Yiu-fai, should appear so utterly content in his situation. As a native Taiwanese, Hsiao Chang is benefited by the psychological assurance of an anchored home and cultural identity. With this in mind, he able to travel and live wherever he pleases, and retain the notion that he is always able to return "home."

In the final shots of the film, we are shown Hsiao Chang's family's food stand, and here the first chords of the song from which the film derives its name. For this reason, I venture that "happy together" does not necessarily refer to one person and another, but rather to a person and their sense of identity. While Hong Kong's identity remains ambiguous, and thus a constant burden on the minds of its people, the stability of Taiwan's identity (rather, any other enduring state), is a source of constant contentment and assurance for its people.

Happy Together . . . Some Later Time

Lee Stablein

Wong Kar-wai's film Happy Together seems to be another ironically titled Chinese film from off-shore of the mainland. In fact, though, Mr. Kar-wai's title is a prediction for the future rather than a description of the present. The film focuses on the tumultuous relationship between two men from Hong Kong who find themselves in Argentina. Though the opening scene is a sex scene, it is immediately followed by one in which the two - Ho Po-Wing and Lai Yiu-Fai - are lost on the highway after going the wrong direction (literally and figuratively) and break up. We're told from the beginning that Ho and Lai are constantly "starting over", and this scene sets up the conflict.

What is telling about this scene, though, is the fact that they couldn't read the map. They had no idea where they were going, so when they ended up somewhere else, they were caught by surprise. If we were to zoom out a bit, we could say that Hong Kong couldn't read a map - and we're led into a discussion about what this film is actually about; Hong Kong on a national level. The whole film is structured as a narrative that parallels that of Hong Kong island. Lai Yiu-Fai, the protagonist, has left home angry at his parents, and stole from his job before leaving, that job being at a business owned by his father. His time in Argentina is short compared to his whole life to that point, but he gets used to being around foreigners - he plays football (soccer), speaks Spanish, works as a doorman at a tango club and learns to dance the tango. Still, he cannot escape the fact that he is Chinese, and that poses problems (like difficulty finding a job).

Against a national backdrop, we see the same thing. Hong Kong was a Chinese territory for thousands of years before the Opium War and its cessation to the British. Like Lai Yiu-Fai, Hong Kongese treat the mainlanders - their parents, in a sense - with contempt, and chose to be surrounded by strangers (the British). They adopt foreign habits - capitalism, English, urban life - but ultimately can��t escape the fact that they are Chinese. When the 1990s come, Hong Kong is unable to read the map of the future, and when the island is ceded back to China, the journey is rough.

The point the Wong Kar-wai makes, though, is in the future tense; eventually, everyone has to go back home. We see this in the case of Xiao Chang, a third character in Argentina who is from Taiwan. He is in Argentina as a tourist, and is presumably not happy with his home, but, as Lai Yiu-Fai observes at the end, "he always has a place to come home to." This gives a picture of the national scenario involving Taiwan (now Chinese Taipei) and mainland China; though Taiwanese made a point to distinguish their island as a separate entity during the Communist revolution, it was a conscious decision, and they can, as we see somewhat in recent years, always go back.

Lai Yiu-Fai finds himself in a similar situation; he is no longer happy in Argentina, and just wants to go back to Hong Kong. He takes a job at a slaughterhouse to pay for his return flight, in a sense slaughtering the idea that he can escape his cultural identity. When the camera zooms in on the blood as Lai sprays off the slaughterhouse floor, we have a grim image of death on many levels; death of his relationship with Po-Wing on a plot level, death of his fleeing from Hong Kong, and on a national scale, the death of Hong Kong's independence from the mainland. Lai does go home at the end, with some trepidation, and Wong Kar-wai's implication is almost complete. All that is left is for Hong Kong to embrace - even hesitantly - its Chinese history and culture and return, like a prodigal son, to the mainland.

Wong Kar-wai seems to be proposing a necessary end to Hong Kong's identity crisis since the cessation of rule from British hands to Chinese, and if this film is any indication, it is an end that is inevitable.


Qingqing Zou

The movie "Happy Together" is directed by Kar-wai Wong, a famous Hong Kong director. I have watched his several other movies before, such as "Chungking Express," "In the Mood for Love," and "2046." His movies are full of unrelated scenes which make people have so many different conclusions of his movies. But his movies also can wake people's passions up which they might forget before. So does the movie "Happy Together." It can be a love story; it can be a homosexuality movie. I consider it is a movie about love and home.

This is a story about a homosexual couple Lai Yiu-fai and Ho Po-wing working in Argentine. Therefore, they are away from their home, Hong Kong. The director did not treat this homosexuality movie special. He made this homosexual couple like normal couples. They quarrel; they embrace each other; they dance; and they start over. All these common things of couples make me think about their relationship and their situation. Are they happy when they are together? Lai Yiu-fai is like an airport, and Ho Po-wing is like an airplane. When Ho Po-wing feels tired, he takes a nap at Lai Yiu-fai's place. When he feels better, his nature is flying and he will fly to other places. Lai Yiu-fai says that he cannot control himself when Ho Po-wing asks him to start over. It is because Lai Yiu-fai wants a home; he wants the warmness of the Ho Po-wing's company. Lai Yiu-fai also says in the movie that his happiest time is when Ho Po-wing gets injury and lives in his home. At that time, Lai Yiu-fai feels that at least he controls Ho Po-wing's body. Lai Yiu-fai does not want to give Ho Po-wing's Passport back to him. He feels he controls Ho Po-wing's identity. It is obvious that Lai Yiu-fai is eager to have a home in Argentine when he is away from his home.

At the same time, the director also presented another young people Hsiao Chang to show the people's passion to home. Hsiao Chang is a world traveling people [individual], but he seems like never have homesick and he even wants to go to the end of the world. But when he finally arrives there, he feels it is time for him to go home. At last, Lai Yiu-fai finally gets back. When he is in Taiwan, he meets Hsiao Chang's parents, and eventually he understands why Hsiao Chang is happy when he is away from his home. It is because Hsiao Chang has a home which is always waiting for him to come back. Everyone needs a home. The last scene is Lai Yiu-fai is sitting on the bus and flying. He is in Hong Kong. He shows his only smile in this movie because he is in his home now.

Escape to Argentina

Chris Brown

Happy Together by Kar-wai Wong dealt with some very similar issues with homosexuality and Chinese society that several other movies that we have viewed in class have dealt with. Much like in The Wedding Banquet, the protagonist Lai Yui-fai is estranged from his parents. It is clear that his lifestyle choice of being gay has caused a rift between him and his parents. A very fundamental difference about this film though, is the respective societies that Gao Wei-tong of Wedding Banquet and Lai Yui-fai have escaped to. When Gao Wei-tong escapes to New York, he is not as isolated, as there are several other relationships portrayed by people that he knows in the film. There are heterosexual relationships represented as well as gay ones. In Happy Together, it seems that both Lai Yui-fai and his on and off lover Ho Po-wing have found themselves in a kind of fantasy world that is not all it's cracked up to be.
I do not personally know a lot about what Buenos Aires�� social structure is like, but this movie paints a very strong picture. Undoubtedly in Hong Kong, Lai Yui-fai feels that he is in the severe minority as a gay man. It would seem that homosexuality is not totally accepted in Hong Kong at least in this movie. This is definitely the sentiment that is displayed by Lai Yui-fai's father. In this movie, Buenos Aires represents everything that Lai Yui-fai thinks he wants. It would seem that homosexuality is much more widely accepted in Buenos Aires. In this climate, Lai Yui-fai does not seem like he feels the need to be accepted and I think this is because he being gay is completely acceptable. We see in the movie when Lai Yui-fai tries to call his father and that he really longs to be accepted by him. When he moves to Argentina, it does not make his relationship with his father any better, but he is accepted into his new atmosphere.

By chance, he and Ho Po-wing meet up again. Through some interesting events, they end up together again. To Lai Yui-fai, Buenos Aires seemed to be a place where he could live freely and comfortably, make money, and be happy. Buenos Aires seems to be his ideal fantasy. I think even his want to see the waterfalls add more to his fantasy. He really had had little happiness in his life since losing Ho Po-wing. He ends up with him again and this is what he had wanted for a long time. He gets his wish, but his relationship with Po ends in pain again. His relationship with Po and his ability to make money both fall very short of his expectations. He gets all of these things that he thought he had always wanted, but he ends up being disappointed and unhappy throughout the movie, and so much so that he returns to Hong Kong.

I think that this return to Hong Kong even further cemented the notion of Buenos Aires representing and unrealistic fantasy. Lai Yui-fai's return to Hong Kong represented his return to reality for me. He had been through so much in Buenos Aires, but he was no longer deluded or fooled into thinking that Buenos Aires was any better than Hong Kong. I think he realizes that he was being driven by his own fantasies and he wises up by the end of the film, knowing that what he had wanted before was not as great as he had first believed it to be.

An Inverted World

Julie Blodgett

At first glance, Happy Together is a love story. Two people fall in and out of love, discovering things about themselves and others along the way. But digging a little deeper, we find that this love story is mirrored in the city of Hong Kong, and the main character, Lai Yiu-fai, is falling in and out of love with the city itself. We have two men whose homosexual relationship also mirrors their British national citizenship in Hong Kong. They are not exactly Chinese, not exactly British, not exactly "quite right." Their homosexuality is a way for the director to imitate their uniqueness and alienation as seen in Hong Kong.

The couple travels to South America, the opposite side of the earth, getting as far from home as possible, turning their world upside down. They came to see the waterfalls, but almost never get to it. Instead, Argentina sucks them into an abyss that they cannot escape from, turning their relationship round and round. At some points, the lovers are happy with one another, only to be furious in the next scene. However, the two cannot seem to live without one another and have a type of symbiotic relationship where they feed off of one another. Lai Yiu-fai is the typical provider and caregiver, always taking care of his boyfriend, no matter how he has been treated. A great example of this can be seen when Lai gets sick and Ho Po-wing cannot prepare a meal for himself and makes Lai get up and do it after not eating for three days. Though Lai gets upset, he ultimately gets up and prepares some eggs for a meal. This also plays out in their relationship with Hong Kong: though they leave the big city to see the world and experience freedom, Lai Yiu-fai works very hard to get back to his home and family. Though his father does not want to see him, he still wants to see his father.

Happy in Hong Kong

Chad Brown

Happy Together, directed by Wang Kar-Wai is a tale of two gay lovers from Hong Kong. Contrary to the film's title, the two seem to be the exact opposite of ��happy together.�� The two men, Lai Yiu-fai and Ho Po-wing, begin having problems in their relationship and break up within the opening scenes of the film. In an attempt to start over Lai Yiu-fai moves to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and works as a doorman at a tango bar, a restaurant dishwasher, and also works at a slaughterhouse to support himself. Coincidentally, he runs into his ex-lover Ho Po-wing, who has also moved to Buenos Aires and works as a male prostitute.

Despite their fair share of disputes, Ho Po-wing shows up on Yiu-fai's doorstep following a severe beating by one of his clients. Yiu-fai not only takes Po-wing to the hospital, but also takes him back in. It seems that the two get along just fine when Po-wing must depend on Yiu-fai for everything. When Po-wing recovers however, their relationship once again begins to crumble. Po-wing begins to come and go unannounced; leaving Yiu-fai to believe that he is once again performing sexual favors for money. Not wanting Po-wing to leave, Yiu-fai hides his passport and refuses to give it back. After several disputes, the two once again part ways, and the loneliness-stricken Yiu-fai begins to long for Hong Kong again. In the end, Yiu-fai returns to his homeland while Po-wing remains in Argentina filled with sadness.

Contrary to this films title, the two complicated lovers never seem to be happy together. Throughout the whole film, the two just go back and forth with each other, unsure of what they really want, or even what will make them happy. Yiu-fai struggles with his feelings for Po-wang, whose self destructive behavior always seems to interfere with his feelings for Yiu-fai. The two both seem to be in denial about the fact that neither of them is ever happy. Yiu-fai even makes a comment stating that he hasn't been happy since his days in Hong Kong. Even his friend, Hsiao Chang, who works with him in the restaurant, can tell that he is not happy.
Argentina in this film is depicted as a sort of gay fantasyland. There are no heterosexual relationships depicted throughout the whole film. Since the story is told through Yiu-fai's perspective, I get the feeling that he moved there in order to find fulfillment in the form of a new gay relationship, which telling by the reaction of his father while talking on the phone, is not accepted in Hong Kong. It seems that in the end, Yiu-fai realizes that neither Argentina nor his relationship with Po-wang, were going to fulfill him. It seems that he realizes that he was never ��happy in love�� but rather happy in his homeland Hong Kong. At the conclusion of the film, Yiu-fai decides to stop searching for new beginnings and decides to return to the place in which he was truly happy, which was his home.

Displacement and Cultural Identity

Jack Spence

"Happy Together," directed by Wang Kar-wai is a film which has two overwhelming themes, one being displacement and the other being the search for identity. Displacement happens to all the main characters in the film Ho Po-wing, is from Hong Kong but is now living in Argentina, the same fact applies to Lai Yiu-fai, however Hsiao Chang is from Taiwan but is now living in Argentina.
Interestingly enough, all three men have different reasons for their displacement. Ho has left Hong Kong to find a new life, running away has always been a part of his life and he is unable to settle down anywhere. Yet, he has a stable home to return in Hong Kong but it seems as if he is unable to stop moving from one place to the next. Lai, unlike Ho does not have a home to return to. Lai's father will not let him return home, because Lai stole money. Lai wants Ho to stop running away and to stay with him. Hsiao like Ho left a family to go to Buenos Aires. He did not want to work with his parents in the food business, so he took off and now works in Chinese restaurants to support himself.

It is interesting to analyze the relationship between Ho and Lai. Ho has left a family and only knows a life style of life on the run. However, Lai is unable to return home, and instead wants to start a new life with Ho. The main conflict of this film is that Ho can only run away whereas Lai is ready to settle down and start a new life. Ho cannot conquer over displacement, but Lai has and is ready for a new life.

Identity is another crucial aspect of this film. These characters as a result of being displaced from their homeland seem to lack a true cultural identity. Instead of seeing themselves as citizens of a country they instead view them selves as gay men. They have a sexual identity yet lack a cultural identity. Ho for example does not know if he is British, or Hong Kongese, or what, he is always running away. As a result of all his moving he is unable to establish a concrete cultural identity. Yet, the one aspect of his identity that never changes us that he is a gay man. The characters in this film do not have a defined national identity yet their sexual identity is what defines them.

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