"The cinema is cruel like a miracle." -Frank O'Hara

Happy Together [Wong Kar Wai] and Buenos Aires

Happy Together is a story of a fleeting love affair, but it is also a love letter to Buenos Aires. I recently visited the city for the first time and was struck by the slow ebb of energy that pulsates in its streets and cafés, a melancholy aura that betrays nostalgia for a faded past, and dreams for the not-so-certain future.

In Happy Together, the main character Lai Yiu-fai (played by Tony Leung) lives in the neighborhood known as La Boca, literally the mouth of the Riachuelo river. This barrio, with its colorful houses and storied history, is often invoked as as emblematic of Buenos Aires as a whole. The birthplace of Argentinean tango, it is a dangerous neighborhood to walk around in outside the limited tourist district. It is also quite a bit of distance from the city’s center.


The rooftops of La Boca in Buenos Aires

Lai Yiu-fai is shown repeatedly catching the bus to and from La Boca from his job at a doorman at a nightclub. I also took the #29 bus, which looks almost exactly the same today.


Lai Yiu-fai running after the #29 bus

The La Boca bus depot

And here is the La Boca bridge that the two lovers jog across one cold morning:

Ho Po-Wing [Leslie Cheung] and Lai Yiu-fai [Tony Leung]

The La Boca waterfront with the bridge in the background.

And lastly here is El Obelisco, located in the center of the city at Avenida 9 de Julio. Wong Kar Wai uses sped-up footage of this monument, which is located in the middle of the widest street in the world, as as a trope to showcase the swift passage of time.

El Obelisco at night

Category: film reviews, mystery flavor

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