-MONTHLY VHS & DVD REVIEW-
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Days Of Being Wild|
cast: Leslie Cheung, Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, and Carina Lau
writer and director: Wong Kar-wai
90 minutes (12) 1990
widescreen ratio 1.77:1
Tartan DVD Region 0 retail
reviewed by Paul Higson
It's certain that many great double acts have met under less than classic circumstances,
like brooms clashing part-time at the Netto (Robson and Jerome, apparently), or one
nearly backing up over the other with a dust cart (Siegfried and Roy, reputedly). We
should know better than to expect a masterwork the result of every first encounter.
Days Of Being Wild was the film that coupled writer-director Wong Kar-wai and
cinematographer Christopher Doyle for the first time, a partnership that has since
famously resulted in
Fallen Angels, Happy
The Mood For Love, and 2046. Even back here in 1990 there is no questioning
Doyle's natural talent for the soaking colours, pristine framing and a gentle photographic
style. It is here to subdue, the cinematographer as masseur for the mind. Wong Kar-wai is
certainly not without ideas at this stage, it is that he simply didn't contemplate or care
whether they worked in a feature film.
Days Of Being Wild is a period film, a drama played out in the 1960s and the period
detail production design and location wrangling is spot on. In this era of Craven A and
candlewick bedspreads we are delivered into a scenario that is, if honest, skeletally
Camus' The Outsider, geographically displaced to Hong Kong, not unlike its immigrant
Filipino protagonist, Yuddy (the late Leslie Cheung). Like Camus' hero Yuddy lives a couple
of floors up, an outwardly cool but inwardly fidgety personality with the quite decisive
ability to separate himself from lovers and friends. They languish in the heat, but uppermost
in Yuddy's mind is the answer to a question, the identity of his real mother, withheld by
his drunken sot of a stepmother (Rebecca Pan). Then again, there is always the possibility
that the sodden mess of a woman might be his mother after all.
He takes girlfriend after girlfriend we are led to believe, though we meet only two. First
is the bar girl Su Li-zhen, an ordinarily wary but romantic thing played by Maggie Cheung.
The second girl is more good time, Mimi (Carina Lau), or Leung Fung-ying, or Lulu, as in
quick succession she will reintroduce herself. Yuddy determines to return to the Philippines
leaving his car to his only 'friend' Zeb (Jacky Cheung). Su Li-zhen has meanwhile sought
solace in a patrolman Tide (Andy Lau) on an unusually quiet late shift plod of the streets
of their quarter. It is for verbal counselling only, though her beauty and honesty are
enough for the young officer to fall in love with her. The words spent, she makes no
further contact, and his unrequited longing becomes so great that he his driven to quit
the streets she one night strolled with him and take a job at sea instead. Everything
comes to an unrewarding if realistic close. People ultimately separate one way or another.
Kar-wai is a brave director. As in life the structure is unruly. Forget balance and don't
expect a big show closer. It is a designer unruliness. There is a sense of games begun,
perhaps imagined, and deserted. At several stages in the viewing I am triggered to return
to the beginning and explore it anew with the apparent late introduction of some device
or concept. Late coming, but neither kept nor necessarily intended. At one point I anticipate
a La Ronde style game of tag with characters introduced as others are bade farewell.
I was wrong. Also interestingly suggested is the notion of people forgetting those once
before met. It's revealed to be in the pretext of a ruse, though. Mimi's habit of introducing
herself under different names could also have been an interesting plot device to another
director. As much as I would excite in the exploration of such ideas, Kar-wai is too honest
to become wrapped up in gimmicks like that. Well, at least until Chungking Express.
This points to the most important failing of the film. How is it I come to have time to
mull over this unless the film has failed to hold my attention? There are too many languid
passages, as magically shot as they might be. The closing scene may be deliberately innocuous
but it is no good to me to suddenly realise the closing titles have begun.
Kar-wai is not entirely truthful to his vision though. At the 77th minute he throws in
a knife flashing, table turning, gun-discharging 60 seconds that appear to be there as
if to excuse the slow-burning norm of the film. It seems particularly unfortunate that
this action scene lasts a minute in a film in which one of its more precious notions is
that of the perpetuity of a minute in a romantic context. Yuddy woos Li-zhen on the notion
of the worth of a minute, delineating 60 seconds that would be forever theirs. "I
used to think a minute always raced by... sometimes it can last forever." There are
several other wonderful lines in the film. In answer to a question the most important of
his lovers, Yuddy responds, "I can't know how many more women I'll fall for in my
life. I won't know which one I'll love most until I die." These great lines are
upset and soiled by dialogue that comes in stupid arguments, again the deliberately silly
Mimi, mouthing off insensibly, and silly musings, like the clumsy and ludicrous legless
Kar-wai's films appear to be set in a vibrant now or a languid then. It does not help
decide which way his new film, 2046, will fall, a jump around from the then to
a future fantasy of then, though the trailer for the film, that is found on this disc,
exudes great promise. Doyle continues to bring his magic to all he sets hand on and eye
to. There is some confusion when a shot holds close and long on gate ironwork that is
dated large in roman numerals that read 1982 accompanied by a voice over that moots an
eventuality in the scene. The plot then apparently appears to continue a year later, and
the fashions and the age of the protagonists would seem to confirm the original era.
It's a big blunder. The soundtrack is a terrible light jazz mix, some of it recognisable
as covers. On a busier film it may have been ignorable but here it rakes, scratches and
marks the consciousness. It hearkens back to the worst ever film soundtrack, the Bix
Beiderbecke chuck down on Ordeal By Innocence, though clearly no soundtrack could
come close to that misaligned mess. The saxophone governed cover of Michelle
("my belle" it squawks) is horrible. Sax is comedy; otherwise only of any good
in a Teardrop Explodes pop number.
When it comes to closing credits only the director, cinematographer and the cast members
named in this review are translated. Neither is there any support information on the
disc, though most of those named are of star status. I have seen varying accounts of
the running time but this is a 90-minute film, no matter how much longer it may feel.
No real disc extras, a selection of trailers and the opportunity to watch the film minus
the subtitles. There are certainly reasons to watch Days Of Being Wild and you should
rent it for them, but don't expect it not to be a painless experience in so rummaging.