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  • Wong Kar Wai's debut effort as a feature film director already showcase flashes of talent from the would-be auteur. ALthough not as groundbreaking or innovative as some of his better known films (eg. Chungking Express/ Fallen Angels), nevertheless it displayed some of his distinct signature styles, (eg. naturalistic & idiosyncratic dialogue, character driven films) and themes(eg. love,urban environment, world in turmoil and chaos)

    Obviously inspired by Martin Scorsese's early effort 'Mean Streets', which was in turn partly inspired by 'beat' filmmaker John Cassevetes debut film 'Shadows'; 'As Tears Go by' is 'Mean streets' set in Hong Kong. The harsh depiction of traid and street gang culture is in sharp contrast to the stylish gun-totting hoods from John Woo's 'A Better Tomorrow'. In many ways, Wong's depiction came accross as more bittingly realistic, helped by its many on-location filming (another WKW style). Hong Kong's neon lit streets/dark dingy alleys/fluorescence interiors/late night piers, blended in perfectly with Wong's story set in contemporary urban HK. Very interesting camera work and lighting that is different from the other HK films coming out from that era. It displayed an early WKW visual flare, again evident in Chunking Express and Fallen Angels, which utilizes similar locations and settings, as well as ferentic camera movements and stylised composition. Credit should be due to art director Chang Shu Ping, who collaborated with Wong in all of his subsequent films. Of note too is cinematographer Andrew Lau, who will go on to helm the 'Young & Dangerous' series that bears several visual & subject matter influences from this film.Though I must add that Young & Dangerous portrayal of heroic gansters is more glorifying than Wong's pathetic bloodied characters.

    Excellant performances from all three leads, which bagged Jacky CHeung(doing a Robert de niro) the best supporting actor and Andy Lau a nomination for best actor at that year's HK film awards. Maggie Chueng claimed that this was the first time she discovered the true potential of screen acting. Also unforgettable is Alex Man's supporting turn as the most sadistic villian imaginable.

    'As Tears go By' is probably the only WKW film that is fully scripted (WOng served as a scriptwriter in other generic HK movies for several years before this effort), and it shows. Some clever and subtle original touches in the first act, that translates Scorsese's tortured characters and ethnic Itlian dispora to local HK flavor and motivations. However, the conflict dragged on by the second act, and the film seems indecisive as whether to focus on the Andy Lau/Maggie Cheung love story arc or on his dillema with his understudy pal Jacky Cheung and their conflict with bad ass Alex Man. Scorsese's 'Mean Streets' works because it manages to stay focus on the main protaganist POV and motivations. The whole film is centered around Harvey Keitel's character, and the other characters serves as his burden to his climb up the mafia ranks. That direction seems lost in Wong's version. The last act/conclusion seems rushed, cliche and definitely predictable. What I suspect, and logically seems plausible, is the interference of the producers and financiers on 'As Tears go by'. WOng had claimed in interviews that his early work was being hampered in many ways by others, hence his firm decision and insistence to be the producer in all his subsequent films. He wants to and achieves total artistic control over all of his later films.

    Nevertheless, 'As Tears Go by' is without a doubt a milestone of WOng's career as well as Hong Kong cinema. The visceral on-screen violence, realistc seedy portrayal of HK's underworld and streets locale, and cosmopolitan loves and relationships was never before seen on HK screens during its day. It is preceded only by John Woo's 'A Better Tomorrow', which in many ways is a different kind of film with very different themes. Definitely worth catching for fans of Wong Kar Wai and those who love Hong Kong cinema.

    7/10 from me.
  • No better one day film school can be found in watching "Mean Streets" and then this.

    Superficially they seem the same and Kar-Wai has told us that he patterned this, his first feature after Scorsese's first.

    Here's the lesson: Scorsese belongs to a school of thinking where actors create characters, real extreme and powerful characters. These characters literally create the situations around them. The filmmaker's job is to attach the camera to the characters. Nearly all Italian and Italian-American filmmakers believe this. This is fine if you can live on espresso, but most of us in a film life need something to sustain us.

    Kar-Wai in his later films is clearly in another camp. He literally starts with no script. He creates a cinematic tone. Into that tone is spun a place and his actors are expected to find their way within it. Only then do we see characters, and the camera is never, ever glued to personalities.

    It is a world of difference, as different as people who can talk only about other people contrasted to those who can create another world in a conversation.

    Sooner or later, all lucid watchers must make a choice about how big their film universe can be. This was Kar-Wai's beginning. It is hard to see unless you know his later stuff. But it is there, like the pollen in the air.

    Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
  • I'm by no means a Kar Wai Wong aficionado; I've only seen 2 of his films (this and his follow-up feature "Days of Being Wild"). But from what I've seen, this is the best place to start.

    Kar Wai Wong films are very artistic, and from a technical perspective they are downright miraculous. However, as is the case with many artistic directors, an over emphasis on art can result in losing the audience. After all, not everyone is able to grasp the totality of a film in just 90 minutes. That said, if I had started with "Days of Being Wild" or even one of his more abstract creations I may have been lost.

    "As Tears Go By" is an excellent way to dip your toes in the pool. While it is rich with visual poetry, it is not so complex that it loses its audience. It has a linear story which uses explosive scenes of violence to keep us awake, and at the same time there is a gentle & poetic undercurrent. The story is about a young man who is involved in the criminal underworld, and his life is torn between 3 elements: duty to his bosses, loyalty to his friend, and a hope for love with a mysterious girl who drifts into his life.

    It is an age-old theme, but it's always worth exploring because it cuts to the heart of who we are as humans. Within this story are powerful doses of rage, humility, fear and hope. What may separate this film from others is the way the main character wants to do the right thing. Sure, he's a tough guy, but he's not beyond rationality and knowing when to get the heck outta dodge. The question is, will life/fate allow him to do the right thing?

    Although I feel that Kar Wai Wong's "Days of Being Wild" is a superior cinematic achievement, I think "As Tears Go By" has a more direct connection with the audience simply because the main character is very human and likable. Also his sidekick "Fly" is very funny. Good humor is rare in a lot of art films, but it's not lacking here.

    I would compare "As Tears Go By" to another excellent film, Michael Mann's "Heat" with Robert De Niro playing the thief torn by the same 3 elements: duty, friends and love. Another good one is the Chinese film "The Drummer" about a gangster's son torn by which path to take: his father's (violent) or his sister's (caring). To me, the best in the genre is Takeshi Kitano's "Hana-Bi" (Fireworks) which really shows the bipolar life of a violent man who is deeply in love with his wife. If you liked any of these films, I think you'll enjoy "As Tears Go By". Similarly, if you like ATGB, check out the others I mentioned.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    One of my favorite film viewing pastimes is going back to the early films of some of my favorite directors and getting a feel for where they've come from to get to where they are. In the last year or so, Wong Kar-Wai has firmly ensconced himself as my favorite contemporary filmmaker, and tonight, I treated myself to his 1988 debut feature As Tears Go By.

    What makes this film fascinating is the startling degree to which Wong's instinct for visual poetry and his ability to translate the almost physical pain of longing onto the screen are both already finely honed, though the languid pacing and narrative inventiveness of his later works (like undisputed masterpiece In the Mood for Love) are notably absent.

    As Tears Go By wears the clothing of a straightforward Hong Kong street opera of the type made famous during the 1980s by John Woo, though Wong also tips the cap to Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets. It features swaggering bravado and staccato violence one expects of such fare, and is both Wong's most accessible film and his only commercial success to date.

    As Tears Go By centers on Wah (Andy Lau), an up-and-coming Triad gangster trying to balance his own ambitions against his loyalty to his feckless "little brother" Fly (Jacky Cheung), whose impulsivity represents a constant danger, not only to himself, but to Wah as well (though he also provides an otherwise tense film with much needed humor). Wah's life is further complicated by a growing love for his cousin Ngor (frequent Wong collaborator Maggie Cheung in her first major dramatic role), a beautiful girl whose existence he was totally unaware of before she came to stay with him while seeking medical treatment in Hong Kong.

    Beneath the familiar aspects of genre film, however, lurk the seeds of Wong Kar-Wai's later mastery. As Tears Go By could have been just another bullet ballet, but it is instead a searing, romantic work of art, despite occasional clichés. Always something of an actor's director (and famous for leaning heavily on the improvisational talents of his stars, despite his own background as a screenwriter), he coaxes from his cast performances that are uniformly excellent. Jacky Cheung, in particular, stands out, and he imbues Fly with a reckless machismo that only serves to highlight the self-doubt that gnaws at his soul. The Hong Kong Film Awards Best Actor trophy which Cheung won for this role was well-deserved.

    But it is Wong Kar-Wai who really dominates As Tears Go By, as the visual and emotional style that characterized his later works is already in evidence. His signature thematic concerns of longing and memory, and the master iconography he associates with these concepts (slow burning cigarettes and torrential downpours, respectively) figure prominently in As Tears Go By, and while his mastery of the basic visual style he introduces in this film would increase with later films, he was already a powerful cinematic poet.

    The only elements of his mature style that are missing are the characteristically recursive and self-referential narrative structures of his later work and the constant weight of emotional isolation that so perfectly captures the disassociative rootlessness of modern existence (though the latter is not completely lacking, and is especially apparent in the opening scenes of the movie). This has the effect of slightly lessening the impact of some of the imagery, but it cannot keep As Tears Go By from being an immensely powerful debut film.

  • Wong Kar-Wai's feature debut is essential viewing for anyone who's been beguiled by his more recent work, but it is really just a slightly more existential take on the standard HK gangster pic. It has more commercial considerations, less emotional complexity (or navel-gazing, if you side with Jackie Chan, who called him "the most boring film-maker on the planet")* than 'Fallen Angels' or 'In the mood for love', but there's much to admire in his idiosyncratic digressions from generic conventions. Maggie Cheung, surely one of HK's finest actresses, but so rarely allowed to prove it, is slightly wasted here. Her performance is pleasingly internal and understated, far-removed from the pseudo-comic mugging she made to enact in the Police Story movies which made her famous, but her character is really just the pining girlfriend, an iconic figure of a better future. I can fully accept Cheung as the embodiment of all that is feminine and comforting in the world, but her role is a slight disappointment given the screen-melting roles Wong handed to Brigitte Lin, Faye Wong, Karen Mok and Cheung herself in later films. And, by the way, this is very violent.

    * Jackie Chan also said that Amy Yip was the ugliest woman in the world and that ladies shouldn't fight in movies.
  • Kar-Wai's first film is more in line with the cinematography of other late 80's Hong Kong movies rather than his renown obscure style, seen later on in films like Chungking Express or In the Mood For Love. The characters are also normal in comparison to his later films too, as they take on archetypes seen in many Triad flicks from this era. The writing is classic Wong Kar-Wai however, and what he does with the characters is more interesting then their personalities themselves. In other words their actions speak volumes louder than their dialogue. Andy Lau plays a low-level Triad thug who in hopes of climbing the underworld's ranks becomes held down by his younger brother played by Jacky Cheung. The pair work well together and you begin to like the dynamic bond between them. Trouble ensues between the pair and their gang, and many hard decisions await Andy Lau as he tries to straighten out both his reckless brother and forbidden romance on the side. The ending has a real impact and Wong Kar-Wai's direction is responsible for such a memorable story. Although it feels Kar-Wai wasn't fully at the reigns of this one with some mediocre moments, overall his efforts can be felt wholeheartedly and the passion shines through to deliver a good experience. -7/10
  • For me, Kar-Wai is one of the great contemporary directors. This is his first feature, and is rather a conventional Hong Kong gangster movie. However, it already has elements of the visual style and technical flourish that are utilised so well in his later more complex films. An average film with some nice touches, but certainly worth watching for Kar-Wai fans.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    As Tears Go By is the pure 'Ah Fei' offering from Wong Kar-wai. Stephen Teo writes that you take one part Scorcese's "Mean Streets," and you add one part Jarmusch's "Stranger than Paradise" (Teo 16) and you have one heck of a Triad film. A triad sibling Wah (Andy Lau) has his little brother Fly's (Jackie Cheung) back. Fly is constantly in trouble. Added to the mix is Wah's cousin Ngor (Maggie Cheung) who needing a place to stay while getting a checkup at the local hospital stays in his flat. The Wah and Ngor mysteriously fall in love - sort of that charm of the bad boy business. However, in order to get anything on with Ngor, Wah needs to settle up for the ill will accumulated by Fly. That is the short of it. Being Wong Kar-wai's first film - it is understandable that he has not really developed his oeuvre. Andy Lau, convincingly played a triad brother, reminds one of the dysfunctional characters that Wong cultivates. One would not know it if one's entry into the labyrinth of Wong Kar-wai is through this movie but I guess this movie lays the framework for his adherence to genre in an effort to belong. Maggie Cheung is stunning. She will eventually develop into the forlorn lover in later movies like "Days of Being Wild" and "In the Mood for Love" and Jackie Cheung, plays the never do well 'Ah Fei' who is destined to bite it. Difficult to get too deep here but according to Stephen Teo we really do not see the promise that Wong Kar-wai eventually delivers. I have to disagree. I think, to some extent, we do see the promise that Wong-Kar-wai brings to cinema - the dark brooding characters who all too often defy time and identity are beginning to show themselves in this movie. The trick is to move forward from here to open new spaces of consideration in a movie world so eager to adhere to codes and rules that exemplify genre or worse formula. Kudos all around.

    Miguel Llora
  • sirkevinho117 December 2005
    My feelings towards this film was mixed. In a way it seems to be overrated, just because it was Wong Kai Wei's first film and it was probably his only commercial and gangster film. It was very typical of Hong Kong gangster film in the 80s, with the same overplayed message of loyalty and the main characters trying to prove their value being the central theme. The story was plain and dull, and truthfully, it was another one of the gangster films made in the 80s that is influence by John Woo. Still, I feel this movie deserved some credit for being raved about in certain circles. First of all, this was one of the better gangster films out there, and even though the subject of loyalty seemed overplayed, it was still touching to see the friendship of a boss and his follower. Secondly, and very interestingly, the movie was filmed with an artistic touch. I have rarely seen a gangster film incorporating artistic techniques, such as the distortion of time or using shots of nature, signatures of Wong Kai Wei's latter films, but these artistic scenes became memorable. How could I ever forget the scene where Maggie was walking gingerly through the door, stopped, hesitated for a moment, but continued and slowly, but with class of a true lady, make her way up the stairs? That scene was unforgettable. Although the viewer could only see her back, but from her back, she was still able to project the feeling of uncertainty, but in the end, bravery for going after her love. Usually a scene like this would only be seen in art films, and rarely in a gangster film. In this film, however, the artistic touch only added to the movie's special appeal. A lot of Wong's artistic shots were unforgettable.

    The performances by the two lead actors, Andy Lau and Jackie Cheung, were solid and touching, but far from spectacular. A lot of times I feel their expressions, especially Lau, were forced. Jackie Cheung seemed more natural in his acting, but his expressions were exaggerated, probably exaggerated to enforce his aura of cockiness, an aura that was not believable. Future films of the two stars, especially the recent ones, had better performances, and the viewer could see their vast improvements. The performance of Maggie Cheung must be complimented. Her sweet naiveness was so convincing that I had a hard time linking her with the ditsy roles she took before, such as in the Police Story. One could tell big things were ahead for her, and her future success proved it.

    Overall, very interesting film, but just another one of the 80s gangster film.

  • Otoboke18 May 2010
    When it comes to Gangster movies, only the romantic lens of Kar Wai Wong could result in a movie that features a couple captured in loving embrace on its DVD cover and a title befitting a melodramatic sob-fest as opposed to the blood-thirsty, violent display that it actually aspires to be. Awash with a heavy-handed eighties synth-rock soundtrack that does absolutely nothing for the film some twenty years onwards, As Tears Go By is the byproduct of a director being given the reigns for the very first time and quite naturally, not quite knowing how to implement the hundreds of ideas that he has brewing around in his brain. Indeed, while much of the script is very barebones material drawing heavily influences from Scorsese's Mean Streets amongst other higher-budget Hollywood features, it is Wong's frantic, almost schizophrenic pacing and storytelling that gives it a voice of its own. Sure, it's a voice that at this point in time is still very much in its infancy—awkward and stilted—yet you can nevertheless see where the director was going with this, his directorial debut.

    Telling the story of two Triad "brothers" as they battle the passions of themselves and those around them, As Tears Go By is an interesting take on the already well-established gangster movie format. Inherent here are the typical staples; the partners at odds with each other, one a young hot-headed blood-thirsty shark looking to go places and his Big Brother, a cool, laid-back veteran with little to no ambition. Brought together, the two end up at odds with other gangsters and loan sharks who consistently threaten death upon both of them should they fail to make ends meet. This tangent which naturally plays out as nine tenths of Wong's story here, bounces back and forth between genuinely compelling action and frustratingly caricaturist drama that seems to repeat itself every twenty minutes. Indeed, if there is any fault to As Tears Go By at all, it exists in Wong's insistence in elaborate, almost inconsequential set-pieces that are fun to watch the first or second time, but wear thin after you realize not much else is happening.

    On the other side of the pond however lies a romantic subplot that has given As Tears Go By and indeed Wong himself their names in the cinematic landscape. Centering around the older brother and his passionate affair with his distant cousin who comes to stay for a while, the love story here as it is displayed, is fine and one can understand how audiences may have been moved by its appearance here within an otherwise stoic and bloody display of testosterone, yet suffocated by so much of said action, nothing much is achieved from this deviation. The result is something more akin to a distraction than a truly compelling romance; indeed, while many claim the scene which adorns the DVD cover (which depicts the two in a passionate kiss inside a phone booth) to be representative of Wong's romanticist indulgences that would permeate much of his later career as a film-maker, its initial appearance here is tepid at best. Instead I point to the movie's closing sequence as its most affirming and memorable; it's not exactly a typical Wong depiction, yet it's startling, moving and even just a little bit romantic at the same time too.

    In the end, while As Tears Go By stands as a significant and interesting insight into a director's early footsteps in directorial shoes, much of the feature stands as too half-baked in areas that matter most and overly heavy-handed in areas which only lead to grating and often confusing indulgences. Sure enough, the performances are fine and the movie itself exists as a fair enough take on an already done-to-death genre, yet burdened with a fairly straight-forward script that caters very little to Wong's subtler strengths as a director (which he would find a decade on), much of this debut is rendered a mere artifact of curiosity for those interested; those looking for a genuinely thrilling, or enjoyable movie however should stay clear—As Tears Go By certainly has its moments, but lacks the connective tissue to bind it all together.
  • jay4stein79-127 December 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    What an utterly strange film this is.

    I cannot begin to describe how wonderful this movie made me feel. I can equate it, on a visceral level, with listening to Daft Punk's Discovery. You know, that moment in "Harder Better Faster Stronger" when you get to the real break down replete with amazing vocoderized chanting? I had this stupid grin on my face the first time I heard that and immediately stopped dancing at this club in Cork, Ireland. It was jaw dropping. So is As Tears Go By.

    It travels paths upon which many a film has journeyed (Mean Streets, most notably), but it contains such vibrancy and life that a rather bittersweet quasi-gangster movie is transformed into something more. It transcends the dour catholicism of Scorsese's breakthrough film and achieves a sense of joy and rapture that rivals some of the greatest, most buoyant films of all time (such as Wizard of Oz and Singin' in the Rain).

    The other reason to admire this film derives from its fight scenes. Compare the fisticuffs here to the work of more highly-regarded Asian action directors. Look at Crouching Tiger, Hero, or Hard Boiled and tell me that the fight scenes in those films are more brutal than the ones here. They're not. I will not go so far as to say that As Tears Go By contains better fight scenes, but I will say that I found that they hurt to watch; you could actually feel the blows. That's more than I can say for the fight scenes in those other films. The only thing that this film resembles, as far as eliciting a visceral reaction from a fight scene, is the fight in the trailer in Kill Bill 2 (or really the Uma/Vivica fight in Kill Bill 1). As Tears Goes By achieves a brutality that most directors try to avoid. And yes, that's admirable (insert rant about the desensitizing power of violence in media...).

    This is a great movie, but not quite as great as Happy Together or Chungking Express (it is an improvement upon In the Mood for Love). This was one of Wong Kar Wai's earliest feature films and there is an immaturity to the direction at times that almost always accompanies the work of a young director. Wong Kar Wai is one of the greatest living directors (as good a filmmaker as Herzog, Jarmusch, Spielberg, or Leigh) and should be more highly regarded. As Tears Go By is a great place to start, as it is a tad more accessible than some of his later work and offers viewers a nice portal into this filmmaker's world.
  • There is an inherent danger in looking retroactively at early films from established directors. As with Jarmusch's "Permanent Vacation", Bertolucci's "The Grim Reaper" or even Kubrick's "Killer's Kiss", it can be difficult - after garnering an admiration for a director - to look back at their less refined beginnings.

    Such is the case with Wong Kar-Wai's As Tears Go By (Wong gok ka moon). During the film's early stages, it feels somewhat like an unhappy coupling between a flashy Hong Kong martial arts film and those really cheesy Chinese serials where the emperor's daughter accidentally falls pregnant to the chief eunuch warrior (or whatever, I've never watched one with subtitles). Having said that though, it doesn't quite reach the extremes of either: firstly because the action and violence, although the driving force of the film, are not in the least stylised but are in fact quite confronting; and secondly because the cheese of the soap opera elements is really only apparent through the use of dodgy 80's music. But this is simply dated, not inappropriate - after all, the same could be said about Blade Runner, although the montage about halfway through this film set to a Cantonese version of "Take my Breath Away" is just embarrassing.

    As Tears go By also happens to get better as it progresses. Perhaps this is because the romance between Ah-Wah (Andy Lau) and Ah-Ngor (Maggie Cheung), which seems ready to overpower the film early on, becomes sidelined to the underground-crime half of the plot, which is certainly the most successful and believable half. Wong craftily creates a hard-boiled atmosphere and there is a lot of emotional resonance in the relationship between Wah and his young protégé, Fly (Jacky Cheung). Unfortunately, the same cannot really be said of the male-female relationship between the two stars. It manages to gain a small amount of credibility purely through the fact that we have seen the quiet girl-bad boy romance explored to greater depths in other films. Put this small amount of believability aside however, and it has a very tacked-on, Michael Bay kind of feel to it.

    Although the film is easily criticised, one can nevertheless see Wong's style making its first appearance here, and I can certainly see the justification behind one reviewer's quote on the DVD case: "A promising debut". I would like to particularly single out his clever use of intimate but skewed, 'Dutch' camera angles to highlight the (forgive me for this expression) humanistic dehumanisation which would foreground his more recent and more famous films, "In the Mood for Love" and "2046". He also drives the film at an excellent pace, in spite of the fact that alternations between the subplots give it a slightly episodic, fragmented feel.

    Ultimately, my major complaint is simply that while both the romance and the action have a great deal of potential, used together in this way they don't work. Personally I think Wong could either expand on the romance more or eradicate it entirely, and he would have a more complete film.

    And while hoping not to contradict myself, I have to say that the above comments, which pervaded my thoughts for 90 minutes of this film, were quite rocked by the superb conclusion - framed within criminal violence but so much 'about' the romance - let me just say, whatever I may have thought about most of this film, it was definitely worth it for the ending. Overall, interesting mainly for being Wong's debut and definitely a taste of things to come.

  • Movie was debut feature of WKW. And it shows. It has few elements of 80s asian action movies. But still, it successfully captured the essence of important scenes. It is not great as WKW other flicks but it is not a bad flick. It kept me up although i had already seen Mean streets(and its one of my favrts).

    Acting wise, all did a good job. Maggi C. was beautiful.

    Neon lights, atmosphere, everything was enigmatic.

    WKW - We love you, hope treat us of few more movies in your lifetime.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Wong Kar Wai's films have been described by people in different adjectives. There are those who claim that his films are boring, pretentious, badly plotted etc. There are also those who claim that his films have been the highest incarnations of movie art and are the best amalgamations of cutting edge and innovative camera techniques and deep, rich and unusual characterizations. So after years of watching his films, which is really which? The answer is quite simple and it has to be both and in fact I can say that MOST of WKW's films exhibit those qualities. So, if you are not into those films mentioned described by both his critics and fans, then you should skip this particular director's films.

    But one thing is still sure: there is such a thing as a good and a bad WKW film. How can you determine? It's relatively easy. Remember that I said that all of his films contained the trademark good and bad elements? If one of the bad elements overpowers the good ones then it is simply a bad WKW film. So what's the deal with Wong's first film?

    "As tears go by" was one of the most unique films to come out of HK that year and what was more interesting about it was that it was basically a triad movie, a genre that was defined so well in movies like "The Club" and "Hong Kong Godfather" and refined and somewhat redesigned by "A Better Tomorrow". In general, these films were violently entertaining and each film left a permanent mark on the psyches of audiences everywhere, particularly on how they viewed triads. Watching "As tears go by" must have left a big "What the..?" impression on their faces. That can be justified because the plot is miles away from the usual triad formula of blood brothers having an enemy inside the ranks, the customary treacherous betrayal and of course the bloody revenge where everybody dies. Not in the case of this movie. This movie, like what other reviewers have noticed, is the unofficial HK version of Martin Scorsese's "Mean Streets". Just like how Scorsese's movie was a documentary-like exploration of the life and times of Italian Mobsters in New York's Little Italy, "As tears go by" does the same with the exploration of the lives of triads in the crowded Mongkok District of Hong Kong. (You can also spot the similarities between the main characters in "Mean Streets" and "As tears go by")The plot is also basically more or less the same and what WKW's version gains more weight is in terms of its technical and visual aspects.

    Scorsese's movie was shot in a down and dirty manner that reflected both its documentary aspirations as well as its very low budget. WKW's film is the actual opposite with its combination of dizzying camera shots as well as odd camera angles. (Cinematography by noted HK filmmaker Andrew Lau Wai Keung) Although WKW hasn't gone yet into full "Chungking" mode, most of the film is still shot in the relatively normal HK manner. (As far as Triad films are concerned that is). The action scenes are also surprisingly brutal, crude and none have any of the polish that makes the blows in other action films seemed less painful than they should be. (Courtesy of Action Choreographer Stephen Tung Wai of "A Better Tomorrow"/ "Reign of Assassins"/ "The Assassin" fame)When people get shot, slashed and smashed and they suffer the bloody consequences. Those statements might give other people the idea that this is a rocking triad action picture but it isn't. The scenes of violence might be strong and might pop out when least expected but they happen so infrequently that you will ultimately be focused on how all these tragic acts of violence affect and spiral the lives of these characters downwards

    The acting, on most parts, is okay although I have to admit that in drama films what I focus on more of course would be the acting. (Simply because that is what it has to offer, right?) Andy Lau, as other reviewers have noticed, looks like he was simply phoning in his lines and is simply lazy. Although I can very well see what they mean (especially in the scenes in the beginning with Andy Lau's girlfriend), it is redeemed by some minor scenes like the scene where he pours a bottle of whiskey on his stone-cold, world-weary face. The strongest role in the movie is portrayed by Jacky Cheung as Lau's protégé Fly. Cheung's manic acting style compliments his role pretty well; a role that has several parallels with Robert De Niro's Johnny Boy in "Mean Streets" but one that takes a new and even more drastic turn plot wise. Alex Man is superb again as (what else?) the bad triad, a role that he owned in Taylor Wong's "Rich and Famous" and "Tragic Hero".

    A bad note in the film comes in the form of overused soundtrack, in this case the Cantonese version of "Take my Breath Away." While it was very surprising to hear it the first time, it soon proved to be quite annoying. I like 80's music, but I believe that it was relatively used for too long.

    Overall, the whole experience was a great WKW experience, even if there are some aforementioned pitfalls, but then they are covered more than enough by the striking visuals and some good acting, and not to mention the level of ambition displayed here. Overall, a great merge of a Triad film and a later WKW film. Those expecting a triad movie ala "Bloody Brotherhood" or "The Killer" should probably adjust their individual tastes first before approaching the movie. For better or for worse, WKW has opened the floodgates, inviting several other filmmakers to the "new" style of film.
  • while Wong Kar Wai's movies are watchable even thought there is no real story. this movie has one, and it is his best achievement. the 2 best HK movies in the 1980's are A Better Tomorrow and As Tear Goes By. But this movie somehow had not got the attention abroad
  • As I've mentioned before, Wong Kar Wai is somewhat of a Marmite-director for most Hong Kong fans. Some love the artistry he creates, others think his work can be quite over-rated and boring...

    While I've never had Marmite, I have endured all of his films and get what both sides are saying. Thankfully, for his directorial debut, As Tears Go By is a bit faster paced and oozes that wild, triad-drama from the late 80's most Hong Kong film fans just adored!

    Inspired by Scorsese's Mean Streets, Wong crafts a beautifully shot, neatly scripted and violent thriller with the wonderful and handsome Andy Lau giving one of his best performances, along with co-stars Jacky and Maggie Cheung, and even Alex Mann as the antagonist. As with all his films, there is a certain naturalistic approach to his characters making even the background players, stand-out in their role.

    Director Andrew Lau of Infernal Affairs fame, is the cinematographer, giving a stunningly real look into the gritty ways of the Hong Kong underworld, capturing the drama and action in some beautifully lit scenes. Veteran Stephen Tung Wei looks after the violent action, joined by Kong To Hoi who has starred in, and choreographed for films such as Twins Mission, Five Superfighters, and The Grandmaster.

    While not as slow-burning as his films that followed, As Tears Go By would be one of my favourites of Wong Kar Wai's for many reasons. As a film-maker, I find that most directors put their all into their first film, working with a lower budget but maximum creativity to deliver something special. While this may show many of Wong's traits for what was to come, I still think its a more honest representation of what he can do before budget and expectations step in!

    Of course, aside from the triad action, As Tears Go By focuses on the taboo romance between cousins Andy Lau and Maggie Cheung, with Mag's coming to stay with him in the city after falling ill - not knowing of his activities as a low-level gangster until she has already fell in love with him. As with all his films, Wong carries the drama of such a situation wonderfully, backed by the performances of his cast of course.

    Cutting deep with its story of heart, love and brotherhood, As Tears Go By is well worth the watch and a fantastic film from an era of Hong Kong cinema, long gone...

    Overall: Beautifully shot and wonderfully directed, Wong Kar Wai's directorial debut is one of my favourites!
  • A lot of thing to love about this movie (Maggie Cheung ofc) but As Tears Go By, like many debuts, feels like Wong trying to find his own style. It has his techinques, dialogue, western music... but it's unpolished unlike his later work. Still impressive debut.
  • "As Tears Go By", which was the directorial debut of director Kar-Wai Wong, doesn't look like a movie that was filmed by a rookie at directing. On the contrary, the movie is filled with director's personal style, which includes fast editing and slow motion with blurred images.

    Sometimes, the editing of "As Tears Go By" was so fast that I felt like it had jumped to another part of the story, which is quite different from other movies I've watched, and confused me a little bit. However, there were still some great scenes that were made by fast editing, which excellently enhances the emotions and thoughts of the characters and the plots.

    When filming the action scenes, director Kar-Wai Wong used slow motion with blurred images, which I think is a genius idea to express the mess in actions, and in characters' minds as well. Nonetheless, when it came to the crucial parts of the plots, the picture became clear, revealing not only to the characters in the movie but also to us watching it what really happened.

    The acting in "As Tears Go By" is also brilliant, especially Jacky Cheung starring as Fly, and Maggie Cheung as Ngor. The point that this movie touches me the most is the brotherhood between Wah and Fly. Thanks to Jacky Cheung's great performance, I literally felt the rage, disappoint, sadness and many other kinds of emotion from Fly. Moreover, Ngor is another character that amazed me. Although she looked calm on the outside, her expression gave me a feeling that deep inside, there were more than that. And finally Maggie Cheung let the audience go inside her heart and delivered a performance I will never forget.
  • Wong Kar-Wai is currently became one of my favorite living directors, i just love his style, aesthetics, stories, just amazing visionary and artist. Because of that i wanted to watch his debut movie "As Tears Go By", this was one of the movies i didn't watch to this date, and in my opinion it is solid for debut movie. It reminded me more on the other Hong Kong Movies from that time (there is not that kind of atmosphere like in "Fallen Angels" and "Chunking Express") this movie is more action packed, there is romance also but i think it is secondary thing in the movie. Acting is okay but the worst from all of his movies, in some moments i found it even funny and comic but for some strange reason i found it adorable. Only good acting you can see from Andy Lau he is really great in his role and even in that time he was a major star in Hong Kong. The relationship between Wah (Andy Lau) and cousin Ngor (Maggie Cheung) is not that interesting it is even somehow unbelievable if you compare it to Wong's other movies. The most i like about this movie is aesthetics they are so great, neon-lights and Hong Kong at night, citchy synth 80's music, and Cantonese version of "Take My Breath Away" how not to love this. I think that many fans of his movies "In The Mood For Love" and "Chunking Express" will not like this movie, they will hate it, but for me it is totally okay, as i say it is not perfect(it is full of flaws) but as a big fan of his later work, Hong Kong Cinema and Asian Cinema at all i somehow love this movie, and i found it interesting to see Hong Kong from that time. My grade 6/10.
  • This is Wong Kar Wai's debut feature, his first jump from scriptwriting to film-making, and in the wonderful career of WKW seems to serve only as a tester round for the studio to judge if he's capable of directing. Yes Wong was capable of directing, but the film seems a huge leap from the classics he would start to make from 1990's 'Days of Being Wild'. 'As Tears Go By' tells a routine gangster story, seemingly influenced by Scorsese's 'Mean Streets', with what would become Wong's trademark style. It is wonderfully photographed by future director Andrew Lau (who also co-photographed Wong's 'Chungking Express'), but the plotting seems lazy and contrived, Hong Kong films have told gangster stories like this many a time, which only leaves the style to elevate it above the rest. There is no problem with the acting of course and the always reliable Jacky Cheung makes the most of a crazy role made to measure, whilst Maggie Cheung and Andy Lau also turn in good performances, whilst also marking territory for they're characters relationships in 'Days Of Being Wild'. Wong's famous use of repetition of music is also applied here, but my God this time we wish it didn't, and 'As Tears Go By' is guilt showcasing one of the worst soundtracks I've heard. Whilst 'As Tears Go By' is not really considered a Wong Kar Wai film like all his future films, it definitely serves it's purpose as a forerunner to Wong's future style of film-making, and is a noble attempt at trying to pushing 80's HK heroic bloodshed in a different direction. Recommend only for the Wong completest, this might not serve as a great introduction to the skill and seduction of Wong's later masterpieces.
  • Michael Mann meets John Woo in this pre-The Killer action movie, but WKW clearly was already on his way up to where he is now. Ripped-off music ('Slave to love' - Bryan Ferry and 'Take my breath away' - Berlin), fine and unconventional cinematography and a brotherhood theme can't make this an above mediocre action movie though. The action scenes aren't really satisfying, because the characters aren't properly build up for injustice/revenge, but the dynamic cinematography (Wai Keung Lau) heralds things to come in the career of WKW. I found it nice to watch the typical eighties-style look of this: but then I also liked L.A. Takedown (Mann, 1989) as much as Heat (Mann, 1995). I guess WKW didn't have much artistic freedom in this production, but in his forthcoming film (Days of being wild, 1991, my favourite) everything falls into place and shows his brilliance.

  • The romantic (and likely mistranslated) title says a lot about this busy but empty underworld drama, in which the false glamour of crime and punishment is dressed up with plenty of teenage angst and no shortage of cosmetic style. The lack of any larger then life heroics (so common in Hong Kong action epics) is refreshing at first, but after a while the mean street poses and back alley beatings all begin to look alike, although the physical violence is, apparently, more punishing to watch than to receive, since nobody is disabled for longer than a scene or two. Never mind the mechanics of the actual plot, following a self-reliant young hood forced to risk his small empire to protect a reckless, troublemaking 'brother'; the general thrust of the narrative is slanted more toward the martyrdom so dear to an alienated, lovelorn teenage rebel's heart. Legible subtitles (and a better Cantonese-English dictionary) might have made an improvement.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    If you can see through the sheer eighties-ness of this film, you'll find hidden gold. I checked it out recently, being a big fan of Wong Kar-Wai's riotous "Chungking Express" and masterful "In the Mood for Love", and having been impressed by Andy Lau's performance in the excellent "Infernal Affairs".

    Wah (Andy Lau), seething with energy and anger, is trying to juggle life as a small-time gangster 'soldier', with keeping his wayward 'little brother' Fly (Jacky Cheung) under control, plus holding onto his relationship with a girl who's looking for a security he can't give her. Into this messy world, Ngor (Maggie Cheung), a sick cousin from a quiet holiday island across the water, is unexpectedly thrust on him for a few days' stay. He's a moody night owl, asleep through the day while she perches on the periphery of his clouded vision. But despite his brusqueness, in her quiet attentions to him she wins his notice – and their bond is confirmed when she silently assists him after he crashes back into his apartment one night, badly injured from another scrape caused by the troublesome Fly. With his life starting to crash around him, Wah finally realises that what he wants and needs is right there, if he will only take it. But his lifestyle is incompatible with the simple happiness he finds just within his reach, and something has to give.

    What might otherwise be a pretty run-of-the-mill Hong Kong gangster flick is elevated by the quality of its director and its stars. Lau was a huge star and pin-up even then, and co-star Maggie Cheung's simplicity and underplaying nicely offset Lau's electric energy. Stars and director are alike much improved with age. Wong Kar-Wai's romantic sensibility is irrepressible even in the midst of what can be quite violent fare. But I guess it's really his fundamental approach to film-making – his deconstructed storytelling and camera-work and his mastery of mood – that has earned him attention and accolades worldwide. Sorry if I frankly prefer the former. His style isn't quite fully fledged here, and isn't fully successful, but it has stirring moments. Recommended mostly as a glance back into time with the benefit of hindsight; a bit like looking at "The Duel" to see the germs of Spielberg's ascendancy.
  • I saw this movie yesterday, and let me tell you my friends it didn't disappoint me. But don't get me wrong, it's not that this movie is fabulous (God forbid), is that I hadn't any expectations before seeing it.

    The film starts good. We have our main character, a lonely and tough guy who receives a phone call from a relative (aunt?), telling him that he has to give shelter to an unknown cousin of him for a few days. This cousin is a young woman who wears a chinstrap due to some illness. They hit it off quickly and she is introduced to his cousin world: an underground world full of crime. Here, in this world, we are introduced to the character's brothers: Fly (a gangster wannabe) and Site (Fly's sidekick). After some scenes of violence involving the three brothers, we learn that Ngo (the girl), had to go back to her home. Hau Tau (the main character), not waiting to loose Ngo's love, decided to track her back. After this, I fall asleep

    Again, don't get me wrong people. The movie is not that hideous, I was very tired after a grueling day of work. However, between the part we learn about Ngo's departure and Hau tau's travel to Ngo's place, the movie somehow slows down a bit in a very noticeable way.

    To sum up, this movie it's not so bad, but it's not s good either. After all, it is just another movie
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