Days Of Being Wild (Wong Kar-wai, 1990)


Leslie Cheung (Yuddy), Maggie Cheung (Su Li-zhen), Andy Lau (Tide), Carina Lau (Leung Fung-ying / Lulu), Jacky Cheung (Zeb). Screenplay by Jeffrey Lau and Wong Kar-wai. Directed by Wong Kar-wai. Rating: 12. Running time: 94 minutes.

I’m beginning to appreciate just how much Wong Kar-wai expects of his audiences. He really is the most demanding of auteurs. Days Of Being Wild, like all his other films seem to, plays very loosely on the notion of thwarted human desire and proceeds to become a highly stylised but cryptic visual dream, this time using a palette that’s firmly and beautifully green. It’s a documentation – I use that word to try and convey just how observational it feels, not at all as if there’s a special forced story to be told here in the slightest – of a manipulative man with maternal issues: brought up by a high-class escort with an aristocrat foreign mother he’s never met, Yuddy plays around and destroys the hearts of both Li-zhen and Lulu, and most of the film’s value comes out of both the adoration the camera has for the two women and the nature of their responses to this most reckless of men. But Wong also has a blatant interest in fleeting encounters that have the potential to be life changing, and the one here provides the best sequence in the film: when Li-zhen seeks solace and sympathy from a night-watchman cop that patrols the area where Yuddy lives, there’s hints of a real connection. But, before we know it, external forces pull in opposite directions, and nothing can even begin to materialise.

Watching up until this point is not only fine, but a pleasure. It’s when the tone and target of attention flips for the film’s final stretch that I intend to say it becomes demanding. By switching from Hong Kong to the Philippines and focusing in on Yuddy’s quest for a new life, our focus is completely challenged and our base de-rooted. It will take a second, prepared viewing to fully appreciate, and for the film holistically to take a hold on you. But I have no doubt that, with time, this is certainly what Days Of Being Wild will do. It’s as compelling but as difficult as the rest of Wong Kar-wai’s impeccable resumé.

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