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Days of Being Wild (Wong Kar-Wai) 1991

    Though it is set in the same period and place as his later film In the Mood for Love, Wong Kar-Wai's Days of Being Wild looks and feels almost nothing like it. This is surprising, since he uses Christopher Doyle as cinematographer on both films. Perhaps, this is because it feels that on this film Wong is still on his training wheels. His major theme in films seems to be a search for intimate connection, and this is the first film that really deals with it. It is only his second film to garner international attention (As Tears Go By was the first), and he would go on to do better work. Still, this is hardly a bad film.

    Maggie Cheung gives a (typically) fantastic performance as the spurned ex-lover of the protagonist (Leslie Cheung), a jerk named Yuddy. Though Yuddy is ostensibly the film's main character, I found Maggie's character arc to be much more satisfying. She plays a young woman that latches onto a man, despite her knowing that he will treat her badly. She has nothing else to live for once the relationship sours, and turns up on his doorstep like a lost puppy. She always seems to have her hair in her eyes here, and that somehow seems an appropriate way to convey the cast's state of mind. The film deals with several displaced youth, and manages to approximate what feels like a widespread Hong Kong identity crisis. No one seems to be doing what they feel they should. No one feels that they are where they should be. Everyone's unhappy with where they are at, but no one is willing to go back to where they came from. The characters all careen around, looking for each other, but seem to never accomplish much when they do meet.

    We get a sense that the director is still developing his style here. There are sporadic voiceovers and one or two uses of slow-motion, but the film doesn't feel like a sustained sense of rapture the way that many of Wong's later films do. This might have something to do with it's narrative. It's much more coherent than Wong's average film, and that coherence makes it harder to lose ourselves in what we see. Nonetheless, the film is thematically rich and well-acted. It goes to show that "average" Wong Kar-Wai is better than just about anyone else on a good day.

* * * 1/2

October, 2001

Jeremy Heilman