DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: DAYS OF BEING WILD

Wednesday, 16 May 2007


Days of Being Wild (1991) dir. Wong Kar Wai
Starring: Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau


“Days of Being Wild” was Wong Kar Wai’s sophomore film, and after mild success with his pseudo-gangster film, “As Tears Go By”, as his debut in 1988, it would take “Days of Being Wild” for Wong Kar Wai to announce himself to the world.

Set in 1960 Hong Kong, the film centres on the reckless romantic life of a playboy named York (Leslie Chung). The film opens with the patient and romantic courtship of Su (Maggie Cheung) who works a concession kiosk at a sporting event. Day-by-day, their one-minute encounters turn into two-minutes encounters and so on and so on until they are in bed together fully in a blissful passionate affair. But as soon as Su asks York about commitment, he shuts down and kicks her out of the apartment. York then moves on to Leung Fung-Ying (Carina Lau), a younger and more immature girl, who seems to serve the same place-holder requirement York needs in his life. Su, meanwhile, still shaken up by the breakup, continues to return to York’s apartment demanding answers. During this time she meets a handsome and well-meaning beat cop, Tide (Andy Lau). Their relationship is brief, but still manages to add depth to the complex emotional web spun by all the characters.

Midway through the film Wai turns the tables on the audience and reveals the inner angst of York which has caused so much turmoil with our characters. His domineering mother, whom we see as a pathetic (but rich) drunk, is actually his stepmother, and who has babied him his whole life. When York demands to know his who his real mother was, she denies him. So therein lies York’s attachment issues. York eventually learns the whereabouts of his mother and begins a journey to the Philippines to find her and hopefully reconcile the problems of his life.

“Days of Being Wild” was the first collaboration with renowned cinematographer Christopher Doyle. The film has a different look from his other 90’s works – this is more classically composed and framed, like “In the Mood For Love”. In fact, “Days” is an antecedent of that film in many ways. Wai and Doyle shoot hotel rooms, corridors and staircases like no one else (perhaps only rivaled by Polanksi). The gritty wallpaper, naked lightbulbs and fluorescent lights glowing in the background would become hallmarks of their future collaborations and influence many other filmmakers.

Thematically “Days of Being Wild” is typical Wai. No character has easily fallen in love in a Wong Kar Wai film. Wai puts up so many emotional barriers between his characters its exhausting for the viewer. Take for example the near-misses of two protagonists in “In the Mood For Love”. “Days Of Being Wild” is an anti-romance – it swelters with heat and passion, but in the end it’s a downward spiral into despair. Enjoy.

Buy it here: Days of Being Wild

Here’s the opening sequence. There’s no subtitles, but they’re not needed:

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