Contrary to other reviewer's notions of the film, "Days of Being Wild" does have a plot. The movie is a tale of existential angst. Stephen Teo places the movie in the area of quasi gangster cum romance. In short "Days of Being Wild" is, in the tradition of "Rebel without a Cause" an 'ah fei' movie - a story of lost youth. A large portion of the movie centers on dysfunctional relationships and each and every character's existentialist angst. A really short synopsis follows. The movie is set in 1960s. Leslie Cheung plays the lead character of Yuddy - a self destructive narcissist who constantly hurts women.
In this movie, much like "Ashes in Time" the target of his self destruction is Su Lizhen (Maggie Cheung). As previously stated, the film centers on the youthful, Yuddy, who learns from the drunken ex-consort who raised him that she not his real mother. Yuddy's real mother has left him in her care and moved to the Philippines. Much of the story is situated around Yuddy's need to go to the Philippines to see his mother. I would assume that the lack of connection to the mother is part of the motivation for Yuddy's 'early object loss' and hence his inability to connect with either Su Lizhen or Lulu (a character who will show up again in 2046). Yuddy's "auntie," hoping to hold onto him, steadfastly refuses to reveal the name of his real mother. The revelation, predictably, unsettles Yuddy to his very center, unleashing a cavalcade of irreconcilable emotions.
Two women form the two pillars of Yuddy's existential angst and not surprisingly have the bad luck of falling in love with Yuddy. Similar to Tomas - the main character of Milan Kundera's "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" Yuddy cannot settle down and is stuck (at least in his head) in the liminal space of both/and. Yet, the reality is that he is trapped in the world of either/or and not both/end. Just as Tomas cannot have Sabina AND Teresa, Yuddy cannot have both Su Lizhen AND Mimi. Both are beset with choices.
On the one hand, we have Su Lizhen (Maggie Cheung) who works at a sports arena selling refreshments at a kiosk. On the other hand, juxtaposed against Su Lizhen's 'plainness' (if we can ever call Maggie Cheung 'plain') is the persona of the glitzy showgirl Lulu or Mimi. It is clearly 'early object loss' that leaves Yuddy cold. As Lizhen slowly intimates her deep hurt over what is happening to her and Yuddy to Tide (Andy Lau), Tide begins to fall for her. The same, it is argued, might be said for Yuddy's Sancho Panza - Zeb (Jacky Cheung). Zeb find himself falling in love with Lulu. Yuddy learns of his birth mother's whereabouts and heads out to the Philippines. In the Philippines, he meets up with Tide and they encounter thugs who - not impressed with the 'ah fei' Yuddy, well, do him in. The last minute appearance of Tony Leung seems like a setup for the next movie... too bad we have not had the pleasure... yet? The movie may be all about Leslie Cheung but we should not forget the performances of Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau, Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, and Rebecca Pan. Despite the characters circling around the Yuddy character - each brings a dimension of their own into the movie. The strength, it is often argued, of Wong Kar Wai's movies is his highly developed (or undeveloped, yet very deep) characters.
Par for the course, just like all his other movies, "Days of Being Wild" is visually stunning. Working with Christopher Doyle, 1961 Hong Kong comes to life. As a Filipino abroad, I could not help but feel nostalgic when the movie shifted to the Philippines. I know that 1960s in the Philippines was one filled with cars and urban centers and not only the lush jungle scenes that fill the mise-en-scene. Who cares... it is only a movie and a good one at that. The movie draws from all angles for its greatness - the characters, the acting, the mise-en-scene, the cinematography, the whole ball of wax. The movie can be analyzed on many levels and I fail to do that here. However, on one level, like voyeurs we watch Yuddy's self destruction and enjoy the cathartic element of the 'ah fei.' Bravo Wong Kar Wai! One more movie please! Miguel Llora
4 out of 6 found this helpful