Days of Being Wild (1990)

Wong Kar-Wai became one of contemporary Chinese cinema’s most distinctive auteurs with this dreamy-romantic if fatalistic evocation of 1960s alienation and forlorn.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Review #1,508

Dir. Wong Kar Wai
1990 | Hong Kong | Drama/Romance | 95 mins | 1.85:1 | Cantonese & various other languages
PG (passed clean) for some sexual references

Cast: Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau, Carina Lau, Rebecca Pan, Jacky Cheung, Tony Leung
Plot: Luddy is a devastatingly handsome Hong Kong lothario who seduces and abandons women without guilt. When he sets his sights on a lovely shop girl, he unknowingly sets of a chain of events leading to obsession, self-discovery, and shocking violence.
Awards: Won 6 Golden Horses – Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Makeup & Costume Design, Best Sound Recording; Nom. for 3 Golden Horses – Best Feature Film, Best Leading Actor, Best Leading Actress
; Official Selection (Berlinale)
Source: Media Asia

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: National Museum of Singapore – Perspectives Film Festival
First Published: 7 Nov 2017
Spoilers: No

Wong Kar-Wai’s 1990 sophomore effort, Days of Being Wild, was really where the auteur gave birth to himself.  All the hallmarks of Wong’s style, whether visual or thematic, are evident in this Hong Kong classic that snagged six Golden Horse Awards and five Hong Kong Film Awards, including Best Director.  

Not as widely available on a good transfer as his later films (such as Fallen Angels (1995), Happy Together (1997) and In the Mood for Love (2000)) are on Blu-ray, Days deserves some kind of revival in a special restoration—perhaps on its 30th anniversary in 2020? 

We can only hope, because this is a brilliant film that deserves a far bigger world audience, and not just Asians who dig Cantonese movies.  [Update: Restored version now available on home video via The Criterion Collection]

The who’s who of Hong Kong 1980s/1990s pop culture line-up in a star-studded cast, including Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, Carina Lau, and Tony Leung (in a cameo sequence that is also one of Wong’s most exquisite marriages of image and music). 

Leslie Cheung plays Yuddy, a frustrated playboy who tries to seduce women to fall for him, if only to stem his loneliness.  He finds temporary romantic connections with the characters played by Maggie Cheung and Carina Lau, but ultimately feels that he must seek for meaning to his existence.  

“I’ve heard that there’s a kind of bird without legs that can only fly and fly, and sleep in the wind when it is tired.  The bird only lands once in its life… that’s when it dies.”

The plot may seem convoluted, and character relationships fluctuate kindly (or devastatingly) depending on Yuddy’s state of mind, but Wong shows a strong grasp at capturing the ephemeral nature of life.  His vision is a romantic dream, marked by themes of alienation and unrequited love, and expressed inwardly as  feelings of forlorn.

This doesn’t mean Days is a depressing film.  Perhaps a better descriptor might be… heart-aching.  And this heartache comes across as beautiful, like an ode to a memory, or seeing an old friend. 

Christopher Doyle’s cinematography (his first collaboration with Wong) captures the dreamy-romantic, as well as the fatalistic, with lush, and sometimes, raw visual strokes, and when paired with Wong’s unparalleled gift for picking the right music for the right mood, Days transcends its dramatic trappings to become a film about the conflation of temporal nostalgias.  

We are now almost 30 years looking back at a seminal ‘90s film that is an evocation of another 30 years before—you could think of it as a 2-in-1 time-travelling machine. 

Anita Mui (who sang the Cantonese cover of Xavier Cugat’s “Jungle Drums” in the end credits) and Leslie Cheung, who both passed away in 2003, also contribute to that heartache.  I would like to think that all of these were why Days had been voted the 4th greatest Chinese-language film of all-time at the 2011 Golden Horse Awards.  

Grade: A




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