Days of Being Wild (A Fei Jing Juen)

days-of-being-wildReleased in 1990, Wong Kar-Wai’s Days of Being Wild won numerous awards in Asia and established the Hong Kong film maker as a world player, despite dissapointing box office ratings when it initially came to cinemas. It is also the first film in which the director collaborated with longtime cinematographer Christopher Doyle, whose use of light and shadow, contrasted with a vibrant colour palette, have become the pair’s trademark.

The camera opens on Yuddy, an arrogant, drifting playboy. He is out to woo the shy and apprehensive Su Li Zhen who works nights at the local stadium. Yuddy is relentless, and warns Li Zhen that the moment she gives into his advances – 3pm on June 16th, 1960, to be precise – will be forever graven on her mind. It is a scene of intense, intoxicating romance, which exemplifies the masterful use of intimate shots, heightened sounds and interplay of light and shadow which made Wong his name. The humidity is palpable as the lovers’ sweaty faces glow n the half-light, consumed with a deadly passion that deceives as it overwhelms.

The film, Wong’s second, embodies many of the themes and motifs that characterised the director’s subsequent pictures, particularly In the Mood for Love, released in the year 2000, and 2046 which emerged four years later. The film’s disconnected characters drift aimlessly between casual friendships and uncommitted affairs, seeking but never finding the security for which they yearn. Yuddy’s attitude towards women reflects his ambiguous relationship with the woman who raised him, played by Rebecca Pan. Formerly a high-class escort, she is manipulative and controlling, refusing to disclose the identity of his natural parents for fear that he will leave her to fend for herself in old age.

With almost all the action taking place in darkness, illuminated only by dim bulbs or the light on top of a lone telephone box, Doyle’s beautiful camerawork epitomises the seductive yet terrifying loneliness of the big city.

One particularly enjoyable aspect of the film is seeing an array of Hong Kong actors including Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau, Andy Lau and Jackie Cheung before they went on to become international stars. Tony Leung makes a brief appearance too, in anticipation of a sequel that was sadly never filmed. Leslie Cheung’s suicide in 2003 adds particular poignancy to his character, whose lonely walk likewise indicates a life that has not met its promise.

Days of Being Wild is a modern day classic that captivates the emotional impact of the burgeoning 1960s sexual revolution, and showcases Wong’s seductive visual style.

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