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Happy Together (Hong Kong 1997) Case Study

jclarke | Tuesday October 07, 2014

Categories: A Level, EDUQAS A Level, EDUQAS A2, FM4, Section C: Single Film Critical Study, Analysis, Film Analysis, Film Industry, Film Distribution, Film Marketing, Films & Case Studies, World Cinema, Happy Together, Genres & Case Studies, Drama, Romance, Hot Entries, Theory, Auteur Theory, Queer Theory

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FM4: Varieties of Film Experience – Issues and Debates Section C: Single Film – Critical Study


Happy Together is a feature film directed by Wong Kar-wai. It was released in 1997, the year that Hong Kong’s governance from Britain ended and governance from China began. The fact that Happy Together begins with passports being stamped might well resonate with Hong Kong audiences particularly with when the film was released. We might suggest that a passport is a very tangible symbol of national identity. The film is encoded throughout with images and character scenarios that relate to broader social issues. A combination of our viewing of the film and some sense of context might help us decode the film’s value.

Wong Kar-wai is one of the principal directors who emerged from the ‘new wave’ of East Asian filmmaking since the mid and late 1990s. He is a director that we can identify as an auteur of global, world cinema renown; his films considered a coherent body of work that vividly explores both individual and cultural identity and which have found their audience not at the multiplex but instead via the art-house
cinema circuit, which, broadly speaking offers films that are an alternative to films produced and distributed by Hollywood studios.

Wong Kar-wai’s films make the complex cultural and political dynamics of our contemporary world accessible by using the realities of characters’ relationships with each other and focalizing the larger social picture. In Happy Together the political (cultural identity, gender identity) is personalized and so becomes much less abstract and much more tangible for us to think about.

This resource will offer some consideration of the following contextual and textual issues that relate to his authorial status: the identity of Hong Kong cinema as an example of what we still typically call World Cinema; the representation of a gay relationship; the...

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