Days of Being Wild (1990)

Typically, my self-declared Hollywood hiatus begins with Wong Kar-wai. Days of Being Wild constitutes the first part of an informal trilogy, along with In the Mood for Love and 2046. Playboy Yuddy (Leslie Cheung) has a habit of seducing women only to abandon them afterwards. Li Zhen (Maggie Cheung) and Mimi (Carina Lau) deal with their heartbreak separately. Li Zhen confides in a policeman called Tide (Andy Lau) while Mimi lashes out to Yuddy’s friend Zeb (Jacky Cheung), who happens to love her. Unlike them, Yuddy finds no trouble moving on: to deeper problems and further shores. After convincing his adoptive mother to divulge a secret, he flies to the Philippines to seek out his roots, not knowing that traces of his past will follow him even there.

Compared to other Wong Kar-wai movies I’ve watched, Days of Being Wild offers a faster-paced storyline and more diverse characters. Its provocative opening drew me right in. “You’ll see me tonight in your dream,” Yuddy tells Li Zhen after she rebuffs him. One of my favorite scenes: the two of them looking at Yuddy’s watch, sharing a minute together, him telling her, “April 16, 1960, one minute before 3:00 p.m., you are with me. Because of you, I’ll remember that one minute.” This idea of momentary love develops into a recurring motif. All throughout we see relationships that are bound not by emotions, but by time. This reflects in the cinematography: clocks figure in several shots, and many angles capture two people on different planes.

At least three times Yuddy mentions the story about a bird without legs, one that must constantly fly because death awaits it upon landing. The reference is obvious enough; Yuddy seems at least self-aware. Yet he continues to live destructively. He has no real connections, no commitments. The only relationship that matters to him is nonexistent: his real mother does not want him. (There is a famous extended shot related to this, very poignant.) Eventually Yuddy reflects: “I used to think there was a kind of bird that, once born, would keep flying until death. The fact is that the bird hasn’t gone anywhere. It was dead from the beginning.”

Although I still prefer its sequel, I really enjoyed Days of Being Wild. Not just simply interesting, it offers an affecting exploration of the intersections of human lives and the unavoidable separations that result from them.

‘You always want to keep me with you, so now I won’t let you go.’


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