Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Days of Being Wild
Written and directed by Wong Kar-Wai, Days of Being Wild is the story of a notorious playboy who tries to find his identity while dealing with his own romantic entanglements as those women seek solace in other men. The film is the first part of an informal trilogy that would be followed by 2000’s In the Mood for Love and 2004’s 2046 that explores the idea of love and loneliness as it’s all set in 1960s Hong Kong. Starring Leslie Cheung, Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau, Jacky Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, and Rebecca Pan. Days of Being Wild is a ravishing yet captivating film from Wong Kar-Wai.
The film is a multi-layered story that revolves the lives of a cruel playboy whose entanglements with two different women has them feel hurt while the playboy goes on a journey of his own to find out his true identity when the escort who had raised him told him about his true parentage. It’s a film that explores the idea of rejection and loneliness all in the world of his playboy named York (Leslie Cheung) who likes to wander around in the many situations he’s in where he woos a woman and then moves on to something else. For the two women he woos in Su Li Zhen (Maggie Cheung) and Mimi (Carina Lau), both of them go into different journeys after the rejection where Zhen talks to a cop named Tide (Andy Lau) while Mimi is being pursued by York’s friend Zeb (Jacky Cheung). York would also go into his journey to find his real mother as his relationship with his guardian in the aging escort Rebecca (Rebecca Pan) starts to disintegrate.
Wong Kar-Wai’s script has this very unique narrative where it doesn’t follow any conventional narratives where its first act is about York’s antics with Su Li Zhen and later his affair with Mimi. The second act is about Zhen meeting Tide where the latter is just a beat cop doing his job as Zhen just talks to him where the two become friends for a while. The second act also plays into the tumultuous relationship between York and Mimi where it’s filled with a lot of indifference from York who is more concerned about his adopted mother’s life with another man and her desire to move to the U.S. It all plays to this third act where York travels to the Philippines to find his biological mother but he would endure the similar kind of pain Zhen and Mimi endured but in very different ways.
Kar-Wai would add bits of voice-over narration to express the loneliness the characters face. Especially where York keeps talking about a bird that just flies continuously only to land when it dies which serves as a metaphor for the life he’s leading. A life that is often quite empty where he would meet a major character in the film’s third act who witnesses the emptiness of York’s life up close. The third act would also play into a lot of ambiguities over the fate of these characters including an unnamed gambler (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) who appears at the end of the film.
Kar-Wai’s direction is truly evocative in the way he presents life in 1960s Hong Kong where it’s a world that is quite exciting. Going for a hand-held style that is quite loose but also with a sense of control, it plays to this sense of change that is occurring in the 1960s where the attitudes of men start to lose its way a bit as the two women that York encounters would both deal with tribulations over the fallout of their relationship with him. Zhen and Mimi would have similar reactions to the way they were rejected by York as Kar-Wai’s compositions shows them in very fragile moments where the framing is very succinct with very little emphasis on close-ups in favor of wide and medium shots. Even where the two women would meet two men who were willing to help as it plays into how they would react to this gesture.
The direction also has Kar-Wai take great care into the way he presents not just Hong Kong but also the Philippines as it has this air of style that is seductive in its imagery. While much of the Hong Kong presentation is a bit dreary with some unique palettes to convey a mood, there is something about the scenes in the Philippines that is more dream-like but also off in some ways where York would encounter elements of danger. Notably as Kar-Wai would utilize some strange camera angles to present something that is a bit surreal but also grounded in the way York had lived his life. Yet, it is followed by an ending that is described as ambiguous but also something where things are changing over everything that the characters in the film have endured. Overall, Kar-Wai crafts a very abstract yet intoxicating film about rejection and loneliness.
Cinematographer Christopher Doyle does phenomenal work with the film‘s cinematography with its use of grainy colored palettes and dark lighting schemes for some of the film‘s interior scenes along with its emphasis on the color green to play with its mood as Doyle‘s work is truly a major highlight of the film. Editors Kit-Wai Kan, Patrick Tam, and William Chang do fantastic work with the editing where it is quite straightforward in its presentation while they do create a few montages and some rhythmic moments for some of the film‘s darker moments. Production/costume designer William Chang does amazing work with the look of the apartments and such for the scenes set in Hong Kong and in the Philippines along with some of the clothes that Mimi wears to play into her exotic style.
Sound recorder Benny Chu does excellent work with the sound to convey some of the intimacy that goes on in some of the scenes along with the craziness and textures into the sense of longing that occurs. The film’s music by Terry Chan is wonderful as it is mostly low-key with its orchestral-based music and jazz pieces while the soundtrack includes lots of jazz pieces as well as Latin-based cuts to play into the world that the characters live in.
The film’s cast is brilliant for the ensemble that includes some notable small appearances from Tita Munoz as York’s mother, Danilo Antunes as Rebecca’s mother, and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai as the unnamed gambler at the end of the film. Jacky Cheung is excellent as York’s friend Zeb who helps York go to the Philippines while trying to woo Mimi. Rebecca Pan is wonderful as York’s adopted mother Rebecca who seems to despise him for wanting to find the truth of his real parentage while also being someone who feels like she’s got nothing more to give. Carina Lau is amazing as Mimi who is also called Lulu and Leung Fung-ying as this woman who falls for York only to feel jealous over his other affairs as she starts to fall apart. Andy Lau is fantastic as the policeman Tide who befriends Su Li Zhen as he listens to her troubles while offering to be someone to talk to as he laments over his feelings for her.
Maggie Cheung is superb as the shy and melancholic Su Li Zhen as a woman whose encounter with York has her feeling hurt and alone while she tries to figure out how to move on. Finally, there’s Leslie Cheung in a phenomenal performance as York as this cruel playboy who likes to play around with women while trying to find out about his roots as he’s also a man who wanders into every situation he’s in no matter how foolish it can be.
Days of Being Wild is a seductive yet gorgeous film from Wong Kar-Wai. Armed with a great cast, lush visuals, and a rapturous film soundtrack, the film is truly one of Kar-Wai’s finest work in terms of what he’s all about in his exploration of love and loneliness. Especially in the way he delves into the themes of rejection and wandering through life in its most poetic manner. In the end, Days of Being Wild is a sensational film from Wong Kar-Wai.
Wong Kar-Wai Films: As Tears Go By - Chungking Express - Ashes of Time/Ashes of Time Redux - Fallen Angels - Happy Together - In the Mood for Love - 2046 - Eros-The Hand - My Blueberry Nights - The Grandmaster - The Auteurs #28: Wong Kar-Wai
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