Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Days of Being Wild

1991, Hong Kong, directed by Wong Kar-wai

Much of the aesthetic that is familiar from Wong Kar-wai's later films is already present in this, his second feature; although the projected sequel to Days of Being Wild was never made, it's not hard to see In the Mood for Love as a kind of surrogate follow-up, especially given the way that Tony Leung pops up so mysteriously at the end of this film. As in his subsequent work, Wong's control of mood and pace is absolute: he's a master at atmospherics, especially a kind of languid dreaminess that proves almost overpowering for his characters, as if they're perpetually trapped in hot, clammy torpor. Wong uses music especially effectively in establishing and sustaining mood, here employing local versions of various Western classics that underline the period setting (the early 1960s) while keeping the viewer off-balance. It's hard not to see a kind of nostalgia for that period in Wong's work, especially given that he's returned to the era subsequently. The Hong Kong of 1960 comes across as strangely empty - surely at odds with the reality of the time - and is contrasted here with a version of the Philippines which is generally bustling and vibrant, though at least some of the characters carry their anomie with them (as did the players in Happy Together, despite their Buenos Aires setting). The cast is something of a who's-who of Hong Kong cinema of the period: Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau, Carina Lau and Jackie Cheung all get to display a more downbeat side.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States