Days of Being Wild
1991, NR, 94 min. Directed by Wong Kar-Wai. Starring Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau, Carina Lau, Rebecca Pan.
REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., Sept. 15, 1995
A moody, dramatic opus that sports a world view as fully developed as its cast of intriguing characters, The Days of Being Wild is a beautifully realized picture – in many ways, really, a masterpiece – that finds gifted Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wei at the top of his game. Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing (Farewell My Concubine, A Chinese Ghost Story) stars as York, a strikingly handsome and charismatic, if selfish, young playboy who spends his time hopping from one lover to the next, leaving in his wake a string of broken-hearted women who, despite his indifference, can't help being drawn to him. Throw in a mother as uncaring as her (adopted) son, a loser of a best friend who refuses to come in through the front door, a world-weary beat cop (presumably, judging from 1994's ChungKing Express, a favorite character of Wong's) who longs to be a sailor, and you have a thoroughly unique drama well worth raving about. Much like Wong's brilliant Ashes of Time, The Days of Being Wild seamlessly weaves together the lives of a handful of characters in a web so emotionally complex that occasionally the threads can't help but cross. It is for this reason that the coincidental plotting that pops up in the movie's third act doesn't seem quite so coincidental after all – in fact, it not only makes perfect dramatic sense, but seems genuinely fated … it just couldn't have happened any other way. Aiding Wong considerably are the performances from the all-star cast, creating a world of all-encompassing insecurity and uncertainty. From Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing's mesmerizing York to Maggie Cheung Man-yuk's lovelorn counter clerk, this ensemble is just about perfect, with many of these famous faces giving the best performances of their careers. While the movie's leisurely pace and sporadic tinkering with typical narrative structure may alienate some viewers, all those seriously interested in foreign cinema are encouraged to take a look at this atmospheric drama – sure to be remembered as one of the key achievements of the Hong Kong cinema in the 1990s.