Days of Being Wild, Wong Kar-Wai's 1991 film, followed his 1988 As Tears Go By and solidified his style. In turn he made these two films after a couple of intriguing, unconventional swordsman-warrior films. It's easy to see why he's now regarded as one of the top Chinese directors; both his subjects and style are unique and captivating.
In Days of Being Wild he casts some of the best young Hong Kong actors then and now--Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau--in a tale of those who look for love and never seem to find it. Or at least not for long at all. When a completely reckless Don Juan type teases a beautiful stadium ticket taker, promising her at their first meeting he'll always remember her for the minute they shared, this is enough to seduce the lonely girl into falling for him, only to have him callously dump her when she asks him to marry her.
While she finds solace by talking to a street cop, the womanizer hooks up with a semi-sleazy dancehall girl, meanwhile roughing up his aunt's suitor for the attempted theft of her pearl earrings. His aunt chides him for driving away her older suitor, yet stoically accepts what he's done; she needs him more than her suitor. She raised him when his mother abandoned him and now is more attached to him than she realized.
The cop leaves his job and becaomes a sailor. The womanizer leaves town and hooks up with the sailor, completely coincidentally. Meanwhile the ticket taker girl and the dancehall girl find their own ways without the love they need, just as the sailor has done, trying to forget the ticket taker with whom he fell in love, never hearing from her, causing him to abandon his street, his town, and put out to sea.
The parable of a legless bird, the womanizer's fictional tale he uses in his seduction ploys, is one that frames this lyrical piece of filmmaking. The endpieces of lush jungle greenery--hundreds of thick palm trees--accompany the voiceover narration of this tale. The completely offbeat music, ranging from salsa to slow romantic dance music--competely Western--to quirky pizzicatos and glissandi, is similarly accompanied by Chris Doyle's assured cinematography. This was the first major Hong Kong film shot by Doyle and his rich style, embracing a wide spectrum of colors and tones is much in evidence, making this, as already noted, a truly unique cinematic experience.
In fact, WKW's collaboration with Doyle here is so complete, careful, well thought out, and subtle, that it would be impossible to imagine one without the other. So too is the use of the completely Western soundtrack. Set in 1960s Hong Kong, the feel of the era is effortlessly captured, also adding to the atmosphere of this rich film.
This is a landmark film in that, for its time, almost 15 years ago, it focused on aspects of life not previously shown in Hong Kong film and was an obvious departure from the martial arts movies American audiences expected from that part of the world. The advent of not only WKW but a number of 4th, 5th, and 6th generation directors from China and HK can easily count Wong Kar Wai as one of its breakthrough filmmakers. And this film is more than ample proof of that.
Loneliness, sadness, restlessness, lust, longing, emptiness. A film that resonates.....