Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Spring Light Bursts Forth (aka Happy Together)

 "Just Turn Around and Find the Right Road"

Just short notes here mostly focusing on the first half, as I'm pressed for time, and if I don't post this now I'll watch the film another five times; it's a big favorite.

The majority of audiences, especially in 1997, were not used to seeing a rough passionate scene of male gay sex within the first five minutes of a film, especially when an explosive spit of saliva is targeted in one of Tony Leung's hands to lubricate his lover Leslie Cheung. I remember that such a scene having been put together by a straight director in Wong Kar-wai caused much confusion at the time of its release. A gay film for straight audiences? A queer film in which each primary figure inhabits a respective reality of pansexuality, although the focus for the narrative's purpose is trained on strictly male homosexuality — there are no jealousy-inducing dalliances by Leslie Cheung, say, on a late drunken night with Blondie or the like. There yet exists a barrier between the mad love of Leung and Cheung (this is the latter's final Wong appearance, before he threw himself off the top of the Mandarin Oriental in 2003). In previous Wong films a lover always waits; in Cheun gwong tsa sit [Spring Light Bursts Forth, aka Happy Together] wait is a burden, a weight. 

"After we broke up, I came to Buenos Aires." These are Leung's words in voice-over which initiate an on-again off-again codependent relationship in the southern city between his character — Lai Yiu-fai —and Cheung's — Ho Po-wing — who will become a male hustler for money, while Leung/Lai will work as a service doorman at an exclusive gay bar till the early morning. ("I don't have white trash taking care of me!") Many of these early sequences are shot in black-and-white (do I remember more than in the previous version of the film, and these are 2021 changes?) or, rather, desaturated to b+w, which flips emotion on its head, even if the film reverts to color some 20 minutes or so in; I'm reminded of Godard's Éloge de l'amour in which the present sequences are truly shot in stunning monochrome, whereas the past is presented in an ultra-saturated color DV image. A stranded, limbo feeling — Leung/Lai steals Cheung/Ho's passport, and hides it somewhere in this cramped room of Van Gogh. Happy Together plays to me like a Russian short story. By the time Chang Chen enters the story and guides it to its fulfillment, I think of Chekhov, the anecdote and the obscured lesson. •

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