Days of Being Wild (1990)

Review #1,508

Director:  Wong Kar-Wai
Cast:  Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau, Carina Lau, Rebecca Pan, Jacky Cheung, Tony Leung
Plot:  Set in 1960, the film centres on the young, boyishly handsome Yuddy, who learns from the drunken ex-prostitute who raised him that she is not his real mother. 

Genre:  Drama / Romance
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
Runtime:  94 mins
Rating:  PG for some sexual references
Source:  Media Asia International Distribution Limited

“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.”

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.  

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.  

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.  

Verdict:  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.





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