[FILM REVIEW] Wong Kar-Wai's 1991 "Days of Being Wild"
- MOVIE REVIEW
'Days of Being Wild'
Director Wong is at his best in this rerelease of the 1991 film.
By Kevin Crust, Times Staff Writer
The opening scenes of Wong Kar-Wai's 1991 "Days of Being Wild"
feature the unnervingly handsome and conceited Yuddy, played by
Leslie Cheung, as an insistent suitor to Su Lizhen, Maggie Cheung's
apprehensive snack bar clerk. He gradually wears her down, warning
that the moment she gives in 3 p.m., June 16, 1960, to be exact
will forever be etched in their memories.
It certainly will remain in ours. It's a breathless, intoxicating
moment that perfectly translates Wong's masterful use of cinematic
elements. Intimate shots, heightened sound and the director's now
famous content-driven style are elevated to almost operatic levels
as Yuddy quietly snuffs out the resistance of Su Lizhen.
The film, which played in Los Angeles in 1996 and returns with a
seductive new 35-millimeter print and newly translated subtitles,
embodies many of the themes and motifs that fuel Wong's subsequent
films, especially 2000's "In the Mood for Love." Though "Days of
Being Wild" established the filmmaker as a director of note and
earned numerous awards in Asia, it was considered a commercial flop
upon its initial release. A second part, which was partially filmed
but never finished, exists only in a tantalizing glimpse in the
enigmatic final scene of "Days."
The film presents disconnected characters circling one another with
yearning and trepidation. The director's unique brand of cynical
romanticism is clearly on display. Wong cast a group of young Hong
Kong pop stars, some of whom had already established themselves in
genre films. One of the joys of this film is seeing Leslie Cheung,
Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau, Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung and, ever so
briefly, Tony Leung, in all their youthful glory, before they went
on to become international stars.
The tragedy of Leslie Cheung, who committed suicide in 2003, adds
unforeseen weight to the character of Yuddy, the film's protagonist.
Yuddy is a vain, shiftless hedonist who discards women with less
thought than he gives to changing shirts. Any brush with emotion is
cast off as quickly as his trademark combing of his hair.
Yuddy was raised by and maintains a difficult, ambiguous
relationship with a woman who was a high-class escort (Rebecca Pan),
and who refuses to identify his birth mother. The manipulative power
plays acted out by surrogate mother and son have an obvious
influence on Yuddy's relationships with women.
Wong's version of Hong Kong in the early 1960s is not so much a
period re-creation as an imaginary past reinvented from his memories
of childhood. He contrasts the urban jungle of that city with the
dense foliage of the Philippines, where the latter part of the film
takes place. "Days of Being Wild" marked the director's first
collaboration with longtime cinematographer Christopher Doyle, whose
shadowy lighting, contrasted with a brightly colored palette, have
become the pair's signature.
Wong, one of the most influential directors currently working, asks
a lot of his audience, mainly because he is more interested in an
expressive cinema than in conventional narratives. The result is
that his films are more powerful and rewarding with multiple
'Days of Being Wild'
MPAA rating: Unrated
Times guidelines: Some violence, adult situations, sensuality
Maggie Cheung...Su Lizhen
Carina Lau...Leung Fung-Ying/Mimi
A Kino International release. Writer-director Wong Kar-Wai.
Producers Joseph Chan, Alan Tang, Rover Tang. Cinematographer
Christopher Doyle. Editors Kit-Wai Kai, Patrick Tam. Production
designer William Chang. In Cantonese with English subtitles. Running
time: 1 hour, 34 minutes. Exclusively at the Landmark Nuart through
Thursday, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 281-