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阿飛正傳 (1990)
Days of Being Wild

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 04/10/2009
Summary: Great - STILL great

I don’t know what Wong Kar-Wai was up to in the years between 1988’s AS TEARS GO BY and this, his second film, but DAYS OF BEING WILD is certainly a much more accomplished piece of work than his debut.

Following the life of Yuddy (Leslie Cheung), a hedonistic, chauvinistic young man searching for his mother, the film is fully stocked with intriguing characters. On the face of it, Yuddy is about as unsympathetic as it goes – he has a succession of women and comes from the “treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen” school of thought, but he has the odd redeeming quality despite his self-absorption and pretension. Yuddy likes to think of himself as a bird who only lands once – to die – and so has to keep moving, presumably another reason why he has to keep “loving” as many women as possible.

DAYS OF BEING WILD is one of those rare films that pretty much demands a second viewing immediately to gain a better understanding of the themes, relationships and symbolism of the film. And upon repeat viewings, you really do begin to appreciate what an achievement it really is. The performances are excellent, and definitely the best I’d seen in a Hong Kong performance up to that time. Even Jacky Cheung, whose performances vary wildly from downright embarrassing to pretty good, is almost flawless in his delivery. He plays Yuddy’s best friend, a gawky kid who takes as much light from the charismatic Yuddy as he can, but who is always in his shadow. He falls for Leung Fung-Ying (Carina Lau), one of Yuddy’s girlfriends, but is too awkward to make a play for her.

Maggie Cheung plays Su Li-Zhen, another of Yuddy’s conquests. Up to this time, I had only seen her in light comedic roles (such as Jackie Chan’s girlfriend in the POLICE STORY movies) and it was quite a shock to see her in such a weighty role. Of course, she had already worked on Wong’s previous film (as did a couple of other cast members), but she gives a stellar performance as a woman hooked on Yuddy. Alongside her is the first of Wong’s anonymous cops, played by Andy Lau. Lau is well suited to this type of role, and his character is easily the most likeable of the lot, and we want him to end up with the girl. He dreams of being a sailor, but is tied to his ailing mother and has to put his dream on hold. After apparently failing to woo Su Li-Zhen, he meets up with Yuddy in the Philippines for the film’s conclusion.

There are three other things that raise DAYS OF BEING WILD above its predecessor. The first is the script. Believable and unsentimental and short on melodrama, the film moves along at quite a pace, never feeling it necessary to lapse into silent brooding shots of the stars which can sometimes happen on Wong Kar-Wai films. Secondly, this film marks the start of Christopher Doyle’s tenure as Director of Photography on Wong’s films, and his unique stamp is all over it. The obvious example is the “big clock” motif that crops up from time to time all the way through the film, which is pretty hard to forget. Lastly, and I realise I say this about most Wong Kar-Wai films, his use of music the film is superb. I cannot think of this film without “Always in My Heart” by Los Indios Tabajaras going through my mind, accompanied by those shots of the forest in the Philippines going by from the train.

DAYS OF BEING WILD was the first Hong Kong film I saw that struck me as cerebral, and I was surprised that such a film could have been made there. Of course, these days the territory has “grown up” nicely, and I thought that the film may have aged quite badly in comparison to the latest wave of Hong Kong directors. In the end, I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed it and found it still relevant. With all the accusations of Wong Kar-Wai’s supposed pretension, it’s worth noting that the Andy Lau character bursts Yuddy’s bubble when he feeds him the whole “bird without legs” story by telling him “that shit only works on girls”. The themes of captivity and freedom, choice and rejection are still as sharp as they were when the film was made. That, along with the truly fantastic performances by the central cast ensure this film should have a place in Hong Kong cinema history.

I find it odd that even now, some people are utterly perplexed at the final scene with Tony Leung Chiu-Wai getting ready to go out from his low-ceilinged bedsit (along with another fantastic piece of music that I’m utterly unable to identify). DAYS OF BEING WILD was to have a sequel, but the relatively low box-office return ruled that out (not unlike what would happen on his next film ASHES OF TIME). This sequel was to focus on Leung’s character, so this tacked-on ending does tend to be redundant now. Unless, of course, you believe this character is Chow Wo-Man, and that Wong made his sequel under the title In The Mood For Love, but that’s a discussion for another time!

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: pat00139
Date: 03/04/2007
Summary: Nice follow-up, though not better

I can appreciate symbolism and abstract art as much as the next guy but why is Tony Leung in this movie? As far as I can tell, he doesn’t really do anything. If you rent this movie expecting to see him in it, then you’ll probably be a bit disappointed. The star of this movie is clearly Leslie Cheung, who in this DVD is called York. He won the best actor award at the Hong Kong Film Awards and he clearly deserved it. The movie mostly follows his escapades, but sometimes veers and concentrates on the happenings of other characters. However, these veerings usually involve conversations about York and how annoying he is.

Like in ‘As Tears Go By’, the weather is hot and muggy, and men sweating is not uncommon. The slow, languorous days of Hong Kong show the pace of the movie, which in turn show us York’s personality. Most of the movie takes place in 1960, the same general time director Wong Kar-Wai would visit later in ‘In the Mood for Love’. This provides for award-winning art direction and great, award-winning visuals (although the cinematographer this time is Christopher Doyle, not Andrew Lau, but is no less impressive). The movie is also the closest to ‘In the Mood for Love’ that Mr. Wong has done, in that it has very little action, no blurring, and has, albeit in an odd kind of way, Tony Leung, and Maggie Cheung.

Like the other Wong Kar-Wai movies, there is symbolism here. Faces are often obscured by the shadowy recesses of a corridor or the corner of a room, lit by a dim green light. There’s one scene in particular. Andy Lau talks about the time he realized he was poor. He then puts on his police hat, his visor covering his eyes. Mrs. Cheung asks him why he wanted to become a police officer. Mr. Lau then proceeds by talking about what he wanted to be, never really answering the question directly. Throughout the movie, you get the feeling that people want to say what they’re thinking, but often they hold back or say something else. It’s really well done. However, Mr. Leung says nothing. He’s there in one scene, and I really can’t understand it.

Once again, people are in their own little world (especially Mr. Leung’s character, who has to bend down to avoid the ceiling in his appartment), doing what they want and not really hearing what other people are saying. The only decent person in this movie is, oddly enough, Jacky Cheung. Carina Lau eventually tells him something and he changes easily to make her happy. That’s rather strange. When the one time York’s mother tells exactly what she’s thinking, it changes the course of his life and he leaves Hong Kong. The story about the birds is also really telling. It’s all part of the character’s philosophy.

All the actors I’ve mentioned crisscross each other (except Tony Leung, he doesn’t meet anybody), and that’s maybe the weakness of the movie. Whereas Wong Kar-Wai usually concentrates on two or three character (like in ‘Chungking Express’), which are developed as much as any character can be developed, this movie gives more of an overview of each character, with the exception of Leslie Cheung’s character, who’s the movie’s protagonist, which in a Wong Kar-Wai movie means he’s complex and interesting. Well, Tony Leung isn’t really dwelled on at all, but I won’t get into that.

In the end, the movie provides a nice view of all the characters, with, once again, a strong script and all around terrific acting. I don’t know how Mr. Wong does it but the direction he gives always makes any actor perfect. The movie ended up winning 5 Hong Kong Films Awards, including best picture and director, and was nominated for 4 more. It’s more refined than ‘As Tears Go By’ but, I find, missing some of its energy. Maybe that’s the point, though. The slow days of summer force everybody to lay back, dream, and act out of impulse and not reason. However, that still doesn’t explain why Tony Leung is in this movie.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 04/09/2006
Summary: so, the man getting ready to go out...

wong kar wai's second directorial outing and his first with, long-time collaborator, christopher doyle. a moody drama set in fifties hong kong, sees leslie cheung as a man who lives off the savings of his aged, ex-prostitute guardian. cheung drifts through life, casually breaking girl's hearts, whilst searching for his true mother. maggie cheung and carina lau both fall victim to his charms, the former becoming friends with andy lau (a cop who wants to become a sailor) and the later being stuck with jackie cheung when things with leung crumble...

love, lonliness, rain. standard wong kar wai and that's a good thing.

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 12/26/2005
Summary: Average

i am not a fan of Wong Kar Wai's movies, and this movie is more character/mood driven than story. Unfortunately for me, i didn't become absorbed into the movie. Two woman, both in love with one man, and two other men in love with these 2 other woman, not too complicated is it!!

The photography is beautiful, the style of the film is good and the actors all play there roles to perfection. But thats not enough for me, i just found it boring, and nothing much happens.

These arty type movies just does not impress me

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 12/15/2005
Summary: Wong Kar Wai in search of his identity

Days of Being Wild is somewhat of a legendary film in HK history; it established Wong Kar Wai's unique personal, mood-driven approach to filmmaking, which has become the auteur's signature, and it also initiated the collaboration with DP Christopher Doyle. Nevertheless, it's still a bit rough compared to Wong's later achievements -- lacking more timeless moments, luminous photography, foreground music, and vividly haunting performances.

There is some parallel between Leslie Cheung's York and the director's personal experience. In the film, York is frustrated by his identity as a foreign-born, unable to settle down until he finds out more about his lost mother in another place. This reflects Wong Kar Wai's early years as an immigrant from Shanghai to HK, not speaking the local dialect and separated from some of his family. Both Wong and York the character discovered more about themselves at the end of the film, and Wong has since distinguished his identity as a celebrated filmmaker locally and abroad. One notable habit: works with no one but red hot popstars.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 09/09/2005
Summary: Art film? Not art film? Doesn't matter.

A simple movie with a lot going on in it. It centers on York (Leslie Cheung), who was given up by his mother (note that his father is never mentioned - he's only interested in his mother) and now, as an adult, wants to find her. The woman who raised him refuses to tell him where his mother is, for reasons I wasn't completely sure about, but I think centered on her wanting to keep him close, even though she doesn't seem to view him as anything more than a meal ticket, even though at this point she's no longer receiving compensation. They have a kind of "No Exit" relationship; they seem to hate each other but neither can part.

York appears to need women, but won't have any emotional involvement with them. After seducing Maggie Cheung, who tried to resist but was won over, he allows her to leave because he won't acknowledge their relationship is anything special, even though she's living with him and in love with him. His attitude toward her and to Carina Lau, who battles to stay with him, is "take me as I am or leave." And what he is is someone who won't or can't love; anathema to women.

The Andy Lau and Jackie Cheung characters drift around aimlessly and lonely, as do the others. I think the lack of people in the streets was used to emphasize the solitariness of the characters' lives. Although Leslie's character could be labelled a misogynist, that would miss the mark, as he treats men the same way he does women, minus the sex.

The acting was excellent throughout, primarily Leslie, Maggie, and Carina, but the others were good, too, including the woman who played Leslie's step mother, who was spot on.

If you want to observe the lives of people who are soul-less, lonely, lovelorn, and have no pleasure in life, here's your chance. Obviously, no one left the theatre whistling, but so what. It's worth watching.

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 07/17/2005
Summary: Beautiful but perhaps a little boring

Wong Kar Wai's second film as director is a cross between a French art film and a Jerry Springer episode ("rich playboys and the women that love them"), though it's noticably more art film than Springer show on reflection :p

Leslie Cheung plays York, adopted at birth with his upbringing paid for by his parents on the condition that he never learn their identities or be allowed to complicate their lives. The money is enough to ensure that he has never had to work, and he goes through life casually complicating the lives of those around him. Whether this is because of his frustration at not knowing his parents, or just to add spice to a life that's too easy, or just because he's cruel by nature is something the film never tries to answer. It just follows a period of his life, and the lives of those that get caught up in his wake during that period - primarily Maggie Cheung and Carina Lau, whom he casually seduces and discards.

DOBW was the first collaboration between Wong Kar Wai and Christopher Doyle, one of the most influential pairings in cinematic history. The film is less flashy than some of their later work together, but still visually very striking. The colour scheme is muted throughout, capturing the oppressive feel of a tropical summer in the early 60's (I imagine) and even more attentively capturing the performances of the lead actors in every minute detail. Wong and Doyle bring out the kind of performances from the actors that careers are made by and awards are definitely won for, with Leslie Cheung deservedly getting the lion's share of camera-loving for his brilliant depiction of the casually cruel, arrogant and emotionally barren York. One of the things I like about HK cinema is that actors aren't so badly typecast as in Hollywood, and get the chance to try all sorts of characters and genres. It's only in films like this and FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE that Leslie's real talent as an actor shines through though. Wong and Doyle also have the knack of making their cast look especially beautiful, and Leslie has never looked finer than he does here - in fact it's hard to imagine any man better deserving the label "beautiful" than Leslie does in DOBW. It's easy to see why women fall for him.

DOBW is a hard film to analyse thematically, but this does seem to be a requirement for a Wong Kar Wai film. A recurring motif is one of clocks, the ticking of time, and this is surely one of the main themes in the film, but I can't say I really understand what Wong wishes to tell us about time in the film... that time marches ever onwards and we should adapt and move on with it, not try to preserve a moment or reclaim the past? Maybe, but it's a bit of a stretch to read this into the film, and he may not have had anything so contrite in mind.

Days Of Being Wild is a hard film to pin down to anything simple or concise - certainly nothing neat like a genre, which is one of its strengths. Like it's characters, it's not a simple beast and it keeps its feelings close to its breast. We're allowed to watch and take from the experience what we will, but it's not going to invite us in for coffee and a Q&A session at the end. Some may find it infuriating as a result, though in truth it's more likely to earn the criticism "boring" (and I couldn't really argue with that myself).

Boring or not, the film is undeniably beautiful and unquestionably important in the development of world cinema in the 90's - especially in Hong Kong, where I think many film-makers were forced to ask some questions about their own work after seeing what Wong Kar Wai was doing.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/24/2003

This film revolves around a man naned Yuddy (Leslie Cheung), whose abandonment by his mother has caused him not to appreciate any relationships that present themselves to him. Like most of Wong Kar-Wai's other works, there is a circular nature to the story, as Yuddy's two possible girlfriends (Carina Lau and Maggie Cheung) drift in and out of his life, and then come in contact with possible beaus of their own (Jacky Cheung and Andy Lau). In the end, though, nothing seems to have been wrapped up or solved, and the viewer is almost left feeling as empty as Yuddy, if only for the loss of ninety minutes of their life. Like the women in the movie, Yuddy gives nothing back to the viewer. It's a simple, but brilliant, cinematic device.

The movie as a whole is deceptively simple. There are no elaborate sets or costumes, no big musical motifs, no large shootouts, and no elaborate camera work. In fact, Days of Being Wild would probably be one of the most sparse films I have ever seen. There aren't even any extras in the street scenes. Whether this was due to a low budget or a device manufactured by Wong himself, this forces the viewer to go that much deeper into the characters' lives, even though that might not be a place we might want to go.

Days of Being Wild is a good movie, and one which I would recommend for a viewing, especially if you have liked some of Wong Kar-Wai's other films. However, the movie is almost too depressing to be truly enjoyable, and the bleak tone, meandering style, and lack of resolution ultimately hurts it in the end. Even though I appreciated what Wong was trying to do, it was irritating and almost maddening that he did not fully follow through with any of the characters. Perhaps it is this kind of love/hate relationship (envisioned through filmic devices and Wong's use, misuse, or total disregard for) that causes people to feel so strongly about him.

At any rate, despite any problems I had with the story itself, I feel that Days of Being Wild is a stark and minimalistic cinematic representation of loneliness that, while never seeming to go anywhere or providing any sort of resolution, is still a fairly fascinating movie to watch, because of the performances of the actors.

Reviewed by: phil28
Date: 01/26/2003
Summary: Wong Kar-wai's "Days Of Being Wild"

Love it or hate it, Wong Kar-wai's "Days Of Being Wild" is here to stay. Personally, I find this movie very slow and quite boring. It must have taken Wong a while to direct this film. I feel a bit sorry for the six principal actors who have to endure the long filming period. The only thing I have to praise about this film is the beautiful film locations of Hong Kong and The Philippines.

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 02/17/2002
Summary: Days of being bored

Dull, meandering and ultimately pointless tale of unlikeable characters which looks stunning.

In this yet-another triumph of style over substance (more accurately, pizzazz over lack of substance), Wong Kar Wai uses perhaps his oddest collection of background music ever. At least it's an improvement on the deliberately irritating assault he used in Chungking Express.

If you love Wong Kar Wai, you'll eat it up. Otherwise, you have been warned.

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: runo_jp
Date: 06/15/2001
Summary: days of being wild

Some people hate Wong Kar Wai movies, and some love them. I have a more easier approach : I take them one by one. “Days of being wild” is on my top list, together with “Chungking Express” and “In the mood for love”. You may be bored, but the acting is top quality, and the setting completely synchronized with the story. Finally, a 5 stars casting, who do not try to steal the scene from each other.

Reviewed by: Yellow Hammer
Date: 05/10/2001
Summary: reviewed from the Megastar DVD

This movie mainly centers around the life of York (Leslie Cheung), a man who is living off of his well-off stepmother (Rebecca Pan, speaking in Shanghainese) who was a prostitute before. (On the Mei Ah DVD she is depicted slightly more accurately as a 'courtesan'). He can attract women easily but whose main goal in life is to find his real mother. Maggie Cheung plays So Lai Chun, one of York's girlfriends, a docile woman who's a ticket taker/convenience store clerk. Carina Lau plays Mimi/Lulu, a dancer and another of York's girlfriends. Andy Lau and Jacky Cheung are in supporting roles in this movie, and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai has a wee part in the end (the last 2 minutes) that I have no idea what is about.

This was Wong Kar-wai's 2nd movie as a director. Typical arthouse feel to the movie, with the usual abstract ending.

Just like As Tears Go By, this movie was nominated for a slew of awards for 1990 in all the major categories. This movie won the Best Picture Award, plus Best Director (Wong Kar-Wai), Best Actor (Leslie Cheung), Best Cinematography (Christopher Doyle) and Best Art Direction (Cheung Suk-Ping - gosh he wins so often).

Reviewed by: grimes
Date: 04/09/2000

I feel somewhat guilty about giving this film only a short review as it deserves better. The film follows the inter-relations of four main characters, Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau, and Andy Lau plus Leslie's sidekick buddy Jacky Cheung.

Days of Being Wild doesn't have nearly as much funky camera work as Wong Kar-Wai's later films but the script is definitely his. It is not a plot driven film at all, more of a slice of life, following the characters around and exploring their interactions. All the performances were excellent, though Maggie and Leslie stood out above the others.

Note: Despite Tony Leung's billing as a cast member, he shows up for no more than a minute in a completely non-sequitur scene. Apparently, he had a longer part that was cut but because of contractual obligations Wong Kar-Wai had to include him.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/21/1999

Wrong Kar Wai's second feature won countless awards... doesn't use flashy camera work, lighting and editing but the Wrong stuff is all there in the script and performances.


[Reviewed by Andrej Blazeka]

Reviewed by: shelly
Date: 12/09/1999

Moodier, more disturbing: starkly beautiful (but less sensual) thanASHES OF TIME): film students like it (audiences didn't).

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

Slow, nicely photographed triad drama benefits from the presence of Maggie Cheung and Carina Lau, who are nice to look at as the plot rambles. Directed by so-called art-film director Wong Kar-Wai.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 5