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DAYS OF BEING WILD (A Fei jing juen) (director/writer: Wong Kar-wai; cinematographer: Christopher Doyle; editors: Kai Kit-wai/Patrick Tam; music: Chan Do-ming; cast: Leslie Cheung (Yuddy), Kwok-wing, Maggie Cheung (Su Lizhen), Carina Lau (Leung Fung-Ying/Mimi), Rebecca Pan (Rebecca), Tony Leung (Smirk), Andy Lau (Tide), Jacky Cheung (Zeb), Tita Muñoz (Yuddy’s real Mother); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Rover Tang; Kino Video; 1991-China-in Cantonese and Tagalog with English subtitles)
“A dark moody period piece about unrequited love.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The second film after “As Tears Go By” by master Hong Kong writer-director Wong Kar-Wai (“Happy Together”/ Chungking Express”/”2046″/”In the Mood for Love”), is a dark moody period piece about unrequited love, the vagaries of chance, being rootless and aimless, loneliness and the inability to handle intimacy in personal relationships. The filmmaker (born in Shanghai in 1958 but moved with his family to H.K. when he was five) was soon after this critical success but commercial flop upon its initial release, to take on the mantle of Hong Kong’s most influential neo-noir director. It was the first film Wong shot with master cinematographer Chris Doyle, and it’s stunningly beautiful as shot in various richly bright shades and in an expressive shadowy noirish dreamlike setting of an elusive and unreal Hong Kong. Every scene is perfectly realized and its balance of light and dark shades is truly a great visual accomplishment. Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung and Andy Lau were unknowns in this films, well before they were to go on and become recognized as big-time international stars.

Wong Kar-Wai takes us via flashback to the Hong Kong of 1960 and tells of a conceited, handsome, seducer of women, the Lothario and dangerous underworld figure, Yuddy (Leslie Cheung, committed suicide in 2003), who loves ’em and leaves ’em. His callous actions might be because he was abandoned as a child and was raised by a high-scale escort woman (Rebecca Pan), now rich and retired, who pays all his bills because she doesn’t want him to leave. He is obsessed with finding his biological mother, but is frustrated that his surrogate mother won’t help him find her.

One day while buying a Coca-Cola at a stadium refreshment stand, Yuddy strikes up a friendship with the timid, pretty snack bar seller Su Lizhen (Maggie Cheung) and flirts with her by boldly saying she will see him in her dreams. The next day the cad returns and has her look at his wristwatch and when a minute passes at the 3:00 PM mark, tells her they’ve been friends for that long. The two get together for a romance, but he rejects any plans for marriage. Instead Yuddy dumps her and takes up with a more base character, sexy nightclub dancer Mimi (Carina Lau), and treats her with the same disdain after she also falls madly in love with him. Mimi, in turn, attracts the attention of Yuddy’s good-hearted childhood friend, Zeb (Jacky Cheung), but prefers Yuddy even though he dumps on her.

The rejected Su Lizen debases herself by appearing outside of Yuddy’s residence but is too ashamed to see him, and when walking in the night rain she’s given cab fare home by a sympathetic cop (Andy Lau). She will return the money to him the next evening and confess that she’s fallen in love with the wrong guy. The smitten cop arranges for her to call him if she’s still troubled at a public phone booth where he walks his beat, but she never calls and when his situation changes he becomes a sailor and leaves Hong Kong.

In the film’s last half hour the action shifts from Hong Kong to the Philippines, where our confused anti-hero goes chasing down his birth mom. It also shifts moods and turns on the dime into a violent gangster scenario. The great Hong Kong actor Tony Leung makes a mysterious appearance in the final scene. Because Wong avoids a traditional narrative and leaves things up in the air, it’s recommended that this film be seen more than once to get its full benefits (I viewed it twice and the second time around cleared up a lot of things I was fuzzy about).

REVIEWED ON 12/20/2006 GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”