Monday, November 2, 2009
Days of Being Wild
A Fei Zheng Chuan (Days of Being Wild), 1990
Dir: Wong Kar-wai
November 1, 2009
This film has everything that I love about Wong Kar-wai, and none of the nonsense that makes 2046 (2004) or My Blueberry Nights (2007) slightly inferior to something like this or In the Mood for Love (2000). Wong eschews a normal plot for really strong moments and mesmerizing atmosphere and colors, along with his trademark slo-mo tracking shots to swanky 60s lounge music, which completely makes this film move from good to favorite.
The film is vaguely about unrequited love and how people deal with rejection, but, as the title suggests, it follows the nonchalant, wild days of Yuddy (Leslie Cheung), whose good looks let him manipulate the women who come into his life in 1960s Hong Kong. The film starts out with Yuddy going to a sports arena where Su Lizhen (Maggie Cheung) works, shooting one-liners ("You're gonna dream about me tonight.") at her until she falls for his cool demeanor. They have a passionate relationship until Maggie says that she needs a new place to stay, and asks Yuddy if she can stay with him. He's cool with that, but when she mentions the connotations of marriage that it implies, he gets cold, and it seems like the relationship is over. From there we are introduced to Yuddy's "mother" (Rebbecca Pan), a drunken ex-prostitute who is having a relationship with a younger man, much to Yuddy's chagrin. At some point, Yuddy found out that he is adopted, and he desperately wants to know who his parents are. She won't tell him for fear that he will leave her life. He sticks around and looks out for her, but he is always brooding about the information that she refuses to indulge, which sort of acts a an indicator on why he acts the way he does.
Yuddy beats the shit out of his mom's boyfriend one night at a sleazy club where a wanna-be glitzy showgirl (Carina Lau) Mimi/Lulu witnesses. Yuddy deftly sets her up as well, getting her to come home with him, and his "I don't care" passive attitude gets her to move from "I'm not that type of girl" to staying the night. She becomes hopelessly devoted to him despite his occasional cold shoulder, and the relationship comes to a boil when Su comes back to get some stuff while Mimi is there. Both women have a hard time dealing with Yuddy's indifference at the meeting, with Su wondering why she still has feeling for Yuddy while Mimi is extremely jealous.
Su is out in the rain crying when beat-cop Tide (Andy Lau) offers her some money to get home, and the she agrees until she realizes that she needs to talk to someone. They walk around all night, a relationship developing that is nipped in the bud. Tide always wanted to be a sailor, but had stayed at home because of an ailing mother. As they leave each other, we learn that soon after the mother dies, and Tide starts his new life as a sailor.
Yuddy eventually twists his mom into telling her about his biological mother, saying that he hated her for never telling him. She tells him that his mother is a Filipino aristocrat, and Yuddy starts to make plans to head to the Philippines. Earlier in the film, Yuddy's buddy Zeb is introduced to Mimi, and he falls for her. Yuddy doesn't really tell anyone that he is leaving except for Zeb (Jacky Cheung), and Mimi goes crazy with grief when she can't find him, even going to confront Su, who only feels sorry for her. Jacky tries to comfort Mimi and look out for her, but her grief is too much, causing her to yell, "I told you not to fall in love with me!" This sparks a "nice-guys-finish-last" rage in Zeb, where he strikes her hard twice. Later, in guilt, Zeb seeks out Mimi again to give her money to get to the Philippines, saying that if she doesn't find what she is looking for there to come back to him. You never know if she goes or what becomes of Zeb.
The last act of the film is Yuddy's wild days going absolutely feral. Rejected by his biological mother who refuses to see him, Yuddy goes on a bender and picks up a prostitute but passes out in the gutter before he can get back to his hotel room. Sailor Tide, on leave, picks him up and brings him back to his room where they sort of bond. Later, the two men meet at a train station where Yuddy goes into the bathroom to get a fake American passport. He refuses to pay for it and shoots the gangster selling it to him. A huge fight breaks out in the station, with Yuddy doing some awesome out-of-nowhere martial arts kicks, and Tide gets shot in the shoulder before they get away. They get on a train where an angry Tide yells at Yuddy for the way he lives his life, which seems to make no difference. Frustrated, Tide get up to find out how long the trip will last. While up, gangsters who must have sneaked on the train shoot Yuddy. When Tide gets back, they talk for a bit while Yuddy is dying, and Tide figures out that Yuddy was Su's lover. Yuddy tells him to go back to her, but Tide doesn't know if he'll ever see her again. What sets in is the achingly poignant realization that all connections have been missed, and all the characters are adrift. In the last scene, a new young man (a cameo by Tony Leung Chiu Wai) moves about a small room on the train, combing his hair the same way Yuddy did and getting ready to gamble, saying to me that there are always going to be heart-breakers out there living wild.
Wong Kar-wai and DP Christopher Doyle together are everything I could want. Days of Being Wild finds Wong weaving his characters’ longings both visually and textually. Objects and people sometimes float in and out of focus or frame during dialogue, creating the illusion of distance or forcing the viewer to recognize how little space there can be between two people. Life can be wonderful and life can be cruel. People are always going to act the way they are going to act. Sometimes it's the little moments that can be emotionally overpowering, and Wong's unbridled romanticism really get through to me. This is a must see because no one does melancholy like Wong Kar-wai.