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Happy Together Review

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Charting the tortured liaison between the serious Lai (Leung) and the volatile Ho (Cheung) as they flee Asia to Argentina in order to rejuvenate their relationship.

★★★★★

This venture from Hong Kong enfant terrible Wong Kar Wai trades in the fatalistic romance and arresting visuals of his previous calling cards Chungking Express and Fallen Angels. Once again it is first and foremost a triumph of style over substance.

Opening on an energetic scene of gay rumpy pumpy - cleverly placed upfront to diffuse our voyeuristic tendencies. Soon after their arrival in South America, the couple split up - Lai becomes a bouncer, Ho a streetwalker - yet are reunited after Ho arrives on Lai's doorstep badly beaten up. The topsy-turvy relationship continues until Lai becomes interested in shy Taiwanese guy (Chen) and seeks to purge his system of Ho.

Although set exclusively in a male milieu, Wong Kar Wai refuses to get embroiled in sexual politics: instead the focus is a more generalised look at trust, pain and emotional addiction.

But Happy Together's distancing is compounded by its major strength - dazzling imagery and novel editing strategies that beguile and bemuse in equal proportions: be it the stylised mixture of film stocks, upside-down tracking shots of the streets of Buenos Aires teeming with saturated colour and life, virtually every shot plays beautifully on the retina. Indeed, in the absence of any genuine emotional wallop, it is the directorial pizzazz that pulls you through. Just about.

Despite strong performances from the two leads, it is ultimately never as engaging or heartfelt as it should be, mainly because the erratic plotting scuppers possible involvement with the characters.