More Happy Together

From Atlantic Refugees:

Chris D: Discuss Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train with David sometimes. Once someone asked him why he loved the film so much (this was on a non-film board with other gay posters) and he simply said something like "That film is my life." And that's wonderful to me, I think the power of film is not camera angles or perfect mis-en-scene, but discovering every once in a while that someone has felt that same obscure emotion/feeling that you've been unable to verbalize all of your life. Chereau tapped into David's consciousness with that film. What sets David apart from many of us, that he knows film and the language of film so well that he can support his emotional discoveries by discussing the director's technique and how he got there.

Happy Together, I think, speaks to the power of hope, and that sometimes hope is enough. And that having a connection to someone is sometimes more important than seeing that connection through to completion, that's important to know that there's someone out there, somewhere.

This guy (I can't recall his name) felt so out of place with society (not only as Chinese person in Argentina, not only as a straight man in a straight world, either) that he was clinging to someone that so clearly made him unhappy (but unhappiness is better than loneliness, for him). He was so paralyzed by his alienation that he simply couldn't act, and when this new guy (the cook) came along he was so frightened that he couldn't even talk into the tape recorder. And it wasn't until he said goodbye that he realized the mistake he made, and he was eventually content in having the photo, but not the person just exemplified his dire state of mind.

And yet it's all set against the cook character who so clearly wants the other guy, and it's really just an intense personal tragedy.

And I'd wager that David connects with the alienation aspect. He's a gay black Jew in a straight white Christian world. Throw in the fact that many of his gay friends (almost all, actually) died from AIDS, and you get to see why David loves this film so enthusiastically.

Just being gay doesn't always do it for him

Obviously. He's long considered some of the biggest enemies of the gay community to be the segment of the gay community that wishes to appease the heterosexual dictatorship. (he'll toss the term 'kapo' around to describe them.) I suspect that, in part, his dislike for Schumacher and Almodovar is that they seem to marginalize their gayness in their films. With Schumacher, it's easy to dislike him because he's a crappy filmmaker, but I've read David's rants against Almodovar and I find him less convincing.

Mind you, Noel, this is all supposition on my part, and probably out of line. But I consider David, not a friend so much, but to be someone I deeply admire. I think he's brilliant and I love him dearly. He'll never know the impact he's had on my life or my way of thinking.

Just to complicate things further, David may seem rabidly PC, but he isn't as enthusiastic about the politically and racially sensitive Jonathan Demme as you might think, while Scorsese, whose films' portrayal of and personal relationship with women is iffy at best and who rarely if ever portrays gays onscreen, wins his full approval.

I can see where Those Who Love Me hit David like a freight train, but I can also see that in filmmaking terms it's a magnificent piece of work--maybe my favorite French film in years. In terms of camerawork, of performances, of threading numerous stories in and out to create a personal piece of art that at the same time comments on society in general, it's not altogether embarrassing to set it next to Renoir's Rules of the Game--that's a high compliment, in my book.

I saw Happy Together--a more ironic title I can't think of at the moment--more as a portrait of despaire. That's why I thought the opening sex was so powerful--it's not the sex, per se, but the emotions implied in the scene that broke through for me. Leung screws Cheung aggressively, mercilessly, because only in this limited physical sense can he truly possess and dominate the man; in real life, Cheung's character is as maddeningly elusive and untrustworthy as any free spirit with the face and body of an angel.

Leung spirals downwards as Cheung floats away out of reach. I never saw the ending as a sign of hope, but of survival. He lived through his despair, found maybe someone new to be interested in, and consoles himself with the sight of a magnificent waterfall. But his great love is gone.

And of that great love? That was the most mysterious part. There's no hard evidence to support this, but I think Cheung loved Leung as well, despite everything; I think he wanted the relationship to work, but he was hoping Leung would be man enough to work hard at it and forgive or overlook his excesses. Hey, it's true love, he's probably thinking--can't you go this far for me?

Anyway, that's how I saw it. Thanks for the explication, Chris.

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