Monday, April 28, 2008

Wong Kar Wai Retrospective - DAYS OF BEING WILD

I always thought one minute flies by. But sometimes it really lingers on.Continuing with our sporadic Wong Kar Wai retrospective, we come to his 1991 feature, DAYS OF BEING WILD. A critical success but a commercial failure, the movie has all the hallmarks of Wong Kar Wai's particular brand of cinema: love-lorn urban men; women unable to move on from heart-break; the beautiful, evocative camera-work of Christopher Doyle; kitsch American popular music; and a plot that is less event-driven than an exploration of character and mood.

We are Hong Kong in the 1960s. It's monsoon season and the colour-scape of the film is lush green and brooding blue. Tragic pop-star Leslie Cheung takes on the lead role of Yuddy - an emotionally jaded young man who seems unable to maintain a stable relationship with the many girls who fall in love with him. The first of these is a naive, whimpering girl called Su Lizhen, played by Wong Kar Wai regular, Maggie Cheung in a "typical" role. The second is a ballsy show-girl called Leung Fung-Ying, played brilliantly by Carina Lau. Possibly a third is Yuddy's controlling, intimidating, ex-whore mother (Rebecca Pan). In some ways, she is the most interesting character, given her decision to cruelly reveal to Yuddy that she is actually his adoptive mother, and that his real mother is living in the Philippines.

In contrast to Yuddy, Wong Kar Wai presents one of his classic policeman characters. Andy Lau plays a decent neighbourhood copper, who comes across Su Lizhen stalking Yuddy's apartment. He takes pity on her, and is so emotionally affected by their encounters that he leaves Hong Kong for the Philippines. There he will come across Yuddy, who is now searching for his birth-mother.

DAYS OF BEING WILD is far from a masterpiece and viewers not familiar with Wong Kar Wai's patient mood pieces may be frustrated by its longueurs. However, it's a rewarding film for fans not least because it takes us further on the journey to the most perfect expression of Wong Kar Wai's style - IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE - a movie presaged by the brief, irrelevant and yet lovely little cameo of Tony Leung at the end of the film.

DAYS OF BEING WILD played Berlin and Toronto 1991 and was released that year. It is available on DVD.

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