Days of Being Wild


Wong Kar-wai's Days of Being Wild (1990) has been on my list since I watched Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown segment "Hong Kong", directed by Asia Argento and with cinematographer Christopher Doyle, who worked with Wong on several films. Wong's Chungking Express (1994) and In the Mood for Love (2000) are two of my favorite films, with the latter definitely in my top ten.


What I didn't know until I watched Days of Being Wild is that it's the first part of a loosely connected trilogy, with In the Mood for Love and 2046 (2004) completing the whole. At the end of the film, you see the connection, or prelude, but you could watch these films in any order and the experience would pretty much be the same. Wong's storytelling is episodic, moody and sketchy, with each scene a beautiful, stylistic piece of a wider narrative that's digressive and atmospheric rather than neatly woven. Days isn't as vivid as Chungking or In the Mood, but Wong was still developing his style back then and working with Doyle for the first time, and I think this is apparent in the film when compared to the others, especially during the brief overhead shots that feel experimental or somehow flirtatious.


York (Leslie Cheung) is a playboy who breaks hearts. His first romance is with Su Lizhen (Maggie Cheung), who he drops before a second romance with Mimi (Carina Lau). Both women have breakdowns when he leaves them, and he's equally cold toward his adoptive mother, played by Rebecca Pan. There's lots of emotion, acted and captured brilliantly. There are mini-romances with other characters too, but as they begin to bloom they die. York heads to the Philippines in search of his real parents. Things end badly.


A major theme throughout is time, symbolized by clocks and watches. The characters all yearn for love that's true or pure, except perhaps for York, who comes across at times as a sociopath in his impassiveness and a misogynist. I wonder if it even matters to him, at the end, if he lives or dies. All the others, however, are painfully aware of time, and how little of it they have, which makes their yearning more intense, and the film, with a limited time as a running work of art, more engrossing.

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