Hey, Happy! is the gayest, grooviest sci-fi flick since Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth. Somewhere in the junkyards of an apocalyptic Winnipeg an evil drag queen hairdresser, Spanky (Clayton Godson channeling Sean Hayes), tries to snag a dopey Happy (Craig Aftanis) from the even dopier DJ Sabu (Jérémie Yuen). Pointless but audaciously campy, the film is ethereal like Shunji Iwai’s All About Lily Chou-Chou but with none of the doe-eyed stares and pop-cyber culture references. This gay fairy tale is so luxuriously shot and sparely composed it’s as if Roeg himself was sitting behind the camera. The film’s vibe comes courtesy of Paul Suderman’s luxuriant camerawork; borrowing a page from Tarkovsky’s Stalker, Suderman gloriously evokes a brokedown industrial future in the film’s dreary landscapes. Hey, Happy! is impossible to pin down, so outré its unlikely to strike a cord outside cult circles. Undeniably unique, the film transforms gay culture (the bad, the good, the fabulous) into a bacchanal rave fantasia inundated with voguing transsexuals, outdoor porn shops and chubby Asian women (here, the ideal fag hags). The pumping soundtrack, tongue-in-cheek porn-speak, absurd diatribes and quirky sound design contribute to the film’s pot-stoked, bizarro appeal. Hey, Happy! is great for stoners, queens, ravers and, yes, parties.
Strand Releasing Home Video presents Hey, Happy! in its original 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen on this DVD edition. If you've seen the film, you know how striking the film's color palette really is. Unfortunately, this transfer betrays the film's 16mm Cinemascope photography. Film grain during nighttime and indoor sequences is so large you can almost fall through it. The 16mm Cinemascope film stock explains some of this graininess, but doesn't excuse the average calibration. Daytime scenes fare best, but even then the image is on the flat side. As for the Dolby Digital surround track: it's as sleepy-dopey-doc as Noam Gonick intended it.
I can only imagine what the state of gay films would be today if there were more filmmakers like Noam Gonick, who set out to make a movie about a "gay slut superhero" as a mini-revolt against your average gay issue melodrama. Though spotty at times, Gonick's commentary track is a revelation. Not only is he humble but critical of the film's flaws (he wishes he could have teased out an ambiguous subplot involving aboriginal kids setting fires) but he also makes for a juicy gossip hound. He reveals the origins for the name of his production company Big Daddy Beer Guts, how one of the film's transsexuals had sex with a production person during the film's wrap party, and how the skater boy that kisses DJ Sabu early in the film was afraid of what his girlfriend and friends would say (and Gonick is obviously amused that the kid ended up on the film's poster). "The Ballad of Garbage Hill" making-of documentary successfully mimics the film's dopey groove while Gonick's black-and-white "1919" short proves that the director is very much a protégé of fellow Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin. Also included here is a Cockettes trailer, four funny deleted scenes, the film's theatrical trailer and a photo gallery.
Imagine a queer live-action version of Super Mario Bros. with Sean Hayes as Bowser and you're not even close to approximating the delirium of Noam Gonick's Hey, Happy!.