Buenos Aires Zero Degree: The Making of Happy Together (1999) - full transcript

A making of documentary for Happy Together. Includes interviews, on-set footage, cut scenes and footage of crew members revisiting the locations where Happy Together was filmed.

WKW: I?m a big soccer fan...

... and Maradona was Argentinian

So I figured it might be good to do
a movie in Argentina

After the screening...

I decided to move back to Argentina

When they see the film,
our Argentine friends feel...

... that?s kind of remote

but is actually very close to them

Being here brings back
all the memories of the filming

I tend to linger here
if I?m passing by

We shot here every day...

... and I miss this place

This was our office

My desk was over there

I was here

This was the director?s room

It hasn?t changed much

Like this

Tony Leung: Go on, make a wish!

WKW: I?ve worked with most of
these people since my first film

We?ve been together for years now

A film crew is kind of
like a circus...

... on the road together

With this crew...

... I know I?ll get the film
done no matter what

Tony: What he said made me
follow him out of Hong Kong

What he said made me follow him
to Argentina

Leslie: You realize journalists
will quote that! You are doomed!

Tony: When we were in Argentina...

... our lives and the movie
blurred together

In the story, Lai leaves Hong Kong
for Argentina...

... and then everything stops
and he?s stuck

Much like Tony Leung showing up
for work...

... and finding that shooting
hasn?t even started

This is very much like that

Things happened on screen were
close to what I was actually doing

It?s been some time since
I was satisfied by a role

People ask...

... which role
I?m most pleased with

I always said Days of Being Wild

They?d say ??But you?re only
in one shot?? And I?d say ??Right??

Ask me the same question now...

... and I?ll say Happy Together

The director and crew arrived

in mid-August 1996

On the first day...

... everyone was waving maps at me

... asking ??Where?s this?
Where?s that???

Okay, we?ll shoot here!

At the start, Jacky Pang liaised
with the local crew

I was the interpreter

They were casting all the extras

I kept notes for them
and took photos

I had a great time
watching the filming

But their schedule
was totally unpredictable

Sometimes they?d call
in the middle of the night!

It was like I got caught!

When you?re with Tony...
your eyes should follow...

In this scene...Leslie,

maybe you shouldn?t hold Tony
with both hands

Have a cigarette in one hand
and hold him with the other

Try one

That looks great...

...especially the reflection
in the mirror!

The director took
a lot of trouble...

...finding locations

He was full of questions
about Argentinians

What kind of places do they live...

...what work do they do...

This is a port called La Boca

It used to be full of sailors

It gradually became
a residential area

It?s kind of run-down now

This was the place!

You want to take a look?

The phone was there


Leslie: Recognise me?

That?s where Tony
took Leslie?s call

Aili: That?s it

This was their design

William Chang did it

The director had
his video monitor in here

And this was the room they lived in

Lai Yiu-Fai, let?s start over

Leave me alone!

You?ve left us broke!

I want to get back to Hong Kong!

In my memory, it?s always damp...

...kind of soft

It has a life of its own...

It has a life of its own...

...but kind of sick

It?s like life without sunshine

Your dad called yesterday

Wants you to go back

Come back with me

We?ll see

Fuck This TV set is useless

Get it fixed

I?ll die...

...if I can?t watch TV

Every morning as I leave for work
I stare at Ho Po-Wing...

...wondering if he?ll still
be there when I get back

I should buy a lock

What are you looking for?

Give it back

I won?t

Hit me

Yes, hit me

Yes, hit me


Ho Po-Wing

You come and go as you please

I?ve never said a word

But I think this is the last time

Why should I always
be the one left behind?

Two can play at that game

Just watch me!

I didn?t really want to

We?ll do different tonight

Tonight, I?ll leave first

Ho Po-Wing and I won?t meet again,
I know

So I?m leaving him a souvenir of me

You must be so bored

You have nothing better
to do than pick a fight?

Give me back my passport!

Why do you need a passport?

None of your business!

It?s been a year
since we worked here

It was in 1996

It?s changed a lot...


...this wasn?t concreted over


Have you eaten yet?

Bring something back for me

Oh, it?s you?

WKW: I need to have a clear sense
of each character?s history

What did they feel
when they came to Argentina?

Each character offers
an individual storyline

I remember very well!

Tony?s character attempted suicide

...and we saved his life

He was brought to the hospital

Shooting the scene
was quite scary at first

Tony was wheeled in on a stretcher

Blood everywhere

Everyone was very nervous

All the doctors and nurses
were scrambling to save him

The director?s idea was
that I had a hopeless crush on Tony

A hopeless crush

I was jealous...

...of his relationship with Leslie

They like each other, right?

So the main thing he asked me
to express was jealousy

That was the director?s idea

Your friend will come
to pick you up?

If you eat spicy food...

...your scars won?t heal properly

It?s you!

I have to go


You made me so happy!

You have so much
to talk about with her?

You?re visiting?

I thought doctors visited,
not nurses

Why are you here?

Where?s Ho Po-Wing?

He?s not here
What do you want?

Never mind, I just wanted to
get something back


It doesn?t matter, never mind


Is he okay?

Don?t you know that he?s dead?

Ho Po-Wing!

Have you forgotten your name?

You?re Lai Yiu-Fai...

...and I?m Ho Po-Wing!

You know why I kept your passport?

I wanted to keep your name forever

I don?t care
if you use my name or not

But at least

you?ll never forget it

WKW: This isn?t the way
I want the film to be

I?m still not sure what I do want

So I?ll keep looking

He could have both identities...

Leslie could be Ho Po-Wing as well

So he loves his own mirror image,
is that it?

Just like this

Leslie Cheung in drag as a woman

If it doesn?t work,
we won?t show it to anyone

The idea was to tell...

...the story of these two people

But I know...

...we don?t have enough time
to do that

So this is becoming
more focused on Tony

Tony: That line
??We can start over??...

... cuts two ways!

Are we going to start the film
all over again?

WKW: The first idea...

...was to start with Tony arriving
in Argentina

The airport cops tell him
his father is in trouble

He?s there to look for
his father?s one-time lover

And it turns out
this person was a man

Then he finds Leslie
in Buenos Aires...

...and tries to learn
the truth about his dad

At first, the local
production house was fine

But then they began overcharging

If someone wanted $5000
for use of a location...

...they?d quote us $7-8000

They thought the director
was rolling in cash...

...and shooting a kung-fu movie

They didn?t even know
what we were shooting

I kept getting threats

They wouldn?t let us shoot
in some areas

We?d hear ??There?ll be a bomb
if you shoot there??

People would turn up carrying guns

Or they?d warn us that
if the actors went on the street...

...there might be a nasty accident

So we had to stop

We had a story about two people...

But Leslie had to leave
for his concerts in Hong Kong

The story wasn?t finished...
What to do?

I know how to do this shot of Tony
on his own

But when we finish for the day...

...I go off alone

I sit in a coffee-shop,
thinking how to solve the problem

After Leslie Cheung left,
shooting halted for quite a time

The crew had expected...

...a three-week shoot...

...but it dragged on and on

You could see all of them
were longing to get back home

Sometimes there was no filming
for a week or more

Everyone was bored rigid

I said I couldn?t stand it,
I wanted to go home

I dreamt of my mother...

...I was scared!

I really missed everyone back home

I really missed them

I didn?t want to be there on my own

The others felt the same

Maybe it?s because we were all
so far from home

it?s because of the distance

If we weren?t so far away...

...maybe we wouldn?t feel that way

Perhaps Wong Kar-Wai
did it deliberately

Maybe he wanted us all to feel
as if we were dying!

WKW: Actually the shoot went
on much longer than expected

We were supposed to finish
by September

But we kept on deferring
and deferring it...

Deferring and deferring


Solutions always present themselves

...at the very last minute

Maybe they aren?t even
real solutions...

But something always turns up
to solve the problem

The Central Restaurant
is kind of a legend

During the shooting,
I fell asleep one night

...and woke to find
my face half paralysed

I went to the Central
to find an acupuncturist

He told me I was apoplectic
and began treating me

with his needles
I recovered in about a fortnight

Every single night...

...there are mahjong games
in the restaurant

You can meet everyone
from Chinese doctors...

to the owners of garment factories

At the time...

...I considered starting
our story there

Argentina is nice...

...Iots of girls, really a lot

I?ve lived in Argentina
for nine years

I married 81/ 2 years ago

We have four children

My ideal man...

...will take me out to the movies

I love watching movies

WKW: I felt very warm towards
the people I met there

Looking at the restaurant?s owner,

I wondered how it would be
if I myself had to start over

in Buenos Aires
What would it be like?

Young people should be adventurous

...study and work hard

It was very tough when we arrived
in Argentina

But we didn?t mind

Young people can put up with that
if they have to

Things will get better and better

It was the same for my daughter
when she arrived here

But she picked up the language
and got the hang of things

I came up with another storyline,
about a young guy

He comes to Argentina, broke...

...and works in the restaurant

In the kitchen he meets someone
very much like Tony Leung

And his story starts to emerge

Where are you heading?


As far as I can go

Aren?t your folks
worried about you?

This was my idea

They don?t even know where I am

Will you ever go back?

Chang Chen plays a kid
from somewhere else entirely

He?s very much like
a young Leslie Cheung

He has a real youthful energy...

...which drives Tony on

No mahjong game today...

Don?t feel like it

Wanna come for a drink?

You can go!

I?m okay!


Are you throwing up?

Here, I?ll help you

This is 6 November 1996, evening

I?m in a station snack-bar

As far from Taipei as
it?s possible to be

I just had two hotdogs,
they tasted really bad

And a Coke

There?s a guy sitting next to me

I really want to talk to him

He?s probably the last friend

I?ll make in this city


Strange he?s so kind to me!

Dunno what he?s saying...

...but it doesn?t matter

It?s like he?s wishing me
a good trip

Oh, this hotdog tastes so bad...

Twenty minutes out of
Buenos Aires...

...I got into a fight

I was in the mood for it

Where are you heading?

Aren?t your folks
worried about you?

Can I talk to you?

No special reason

I just want to hear your voice

I saw you once...

...do you always sing in cars?

You were singing when I saw you

I always wanted to know
what song it was

I guess
I wasn?t close enough to hear

I couldn?t hear

I wondered...

...about your voice

But didn?t see you again

So I thought...

...I?d never know

You know...

...I saw you the day I arrived here

Can we move forward forever?

Near ?the end of the world?...

...the southernmost tip

...I wondered
if we?d keep going or turn back

This ?edge of the world? is...

...where the kid?s story can end

Chang Chen: I promised Ah Fai...

...that I?d leave his sadness here

But I can?t make out
what he said that night

Maybe it didn?t record right

His voice isn?t there

There?s just
a couple of strange sounds

WKW: He want his journey to go on,

but it can?t

So he just stays here

It?s as if time has stopped here,
by the water

Tony:1 January 1997

I?m ready to make a new start

I want to go back to Hong Kong

But before going home...

I decide
I must see the Iguazu Falls

You know the giant waterfall?

We went there twice

The second time
I figured out how to escape

First, I?d book myself
on a flight back to Hong Kong

When we got back to Buenos Aires
on a domestic flight...

I?d be first off the plane
and I?d dash for a taxi

I?d go straight
to the international airport

I?d leave the others...

...to take care of my luggage

That was how I planned
to escape back to Hong Kong!

Finally, of course, I didn?t do it

I had to alter my flight booking
more than ten times

Every time I asked Wong Kar-Wai
when I could leave...

...he?d say

??Maybe another ten days or so??

WKW: The filming dragged on and on

Everyone was homesick

We have worked together for long...

...so they all knew
the film wasn?t yet finished

They could see I had problems

But no-one said anything

Under such pressure...

...I always wanted...

...to go off for walks

Sometimes I wonder...

...why I went to
such a place to shoot

Then I started thinking...

I have the thought

I really wanted it all to be over

The sooner we all get home,
the happier we?ll be

One ending we considered...

...was Tony at the waterfall

Maybe he dies there, maybe not

Then I realized...

...he should go back to Hong Kong

Our own experience taught me that

It would have been hard...

...if they?d all left together

But they left one by one...

...so that was better

They all wanted to get home...

...for Christmas and New Year

I knew that day would come

A few days after the last one left

...I moved back to Taiwan

It was like...

I felt a sense of loss

And I thought I might feel better

...if I tried to do...

...something else in Taiwan

When they?d all gone...

...I knew I had to go back

It?s rare for me to make up
my own mind about things

Usually I ask my parents for advice

But that time...

...I knew what I had to do

The assistant director Johnny
asked me to do continuity

I was plunged straight into it

I?d never thought about working
in movies before

But this experience
got me interested

It was my first time...

...to work with a lot of Chinese

I like going to places
where nobody knows me

Nobody knows who I am...

Nobody knows my story...

...or where I?m from

I like that kind of feeling

So I really like
Chang Chen?s character in the film

Don?t know why...

...but that?s how I feel

If I meet another Chinese
person abroad...

...I don?t feel close to them

I don?t need Chinese friends...

...or Chinese shops or anything

I simply don?t need them

I guess it?s a way of...

...making myself feel stronger

I miss these things a bit...

...but I don?t need them

And I do feel stronger for it

Tony: Are you Chinese?

Where are you heading?

Can you sing for me?

Are you Chinese?

Where are you heading?

Give me a coin for the phone?

I need another one

Me again!

It?s my excuse
for staying here with you!

It?s me!

How are you doing?

Right, you?re leaving
to see the waterfall?

Hold me!


Nothing, just making them jealous!

I?ll drop you off

No need

Are you okay?

I?m fine...


I?m okay

WKW: Finally she takes a job
near the Falls

And once in a while she wonders...

...if he ever made it there or not

That?s her story

Happy Together...

...is like a full stop

The end of a certain period in life

We all have our own calendars

but the film is a watershed
for all of us

We?ll all remember...

...everything we went through

As for the people who helped us...

Aili still works on movies
in Argentina

James and Laurita are in Europe now

In late January...

...I found myself a job in Taiwan

It was translation work

Meanwhile they were
still shooting the film

The newspaper said
they were filming in Taipei

So I went along to see them
that night

Films do come from life

But they?re not my whole life

I?m getting better
at keeping them separate

Not like before

I?d been working in Taiwan
for a few months...

...when Happy Together
had its premiere

I was so pleased...

...to see them that day!

After the screening...

I decided
to move back to Argentina