10 December 2010

Days of Being Wild

Wong Kar Wai’s 1991 movie Days of Being Wild (has it really been 20 years already?) is a period piece set in 1960 that seems to be about nostalgia and memory; It could be called Days of Being Young because Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau and Carina Lau — (the protagonist, Leslie Cheung, is now dead, he committed suicide in April 2003) — looked so unbelievably youthful then they looked like different people from what they are today. Watching the movie now adds to the meaning of the movie, an extra poignancy, a record of how cruel the passing of time can be.
It’s stirring to see the late Ms Cheung beautiful, mercurial, and moody - way before his descent into a caricature of diva-dom. He seemed almost innocent here, not yet plucked and self-conscious. Maggie Cheung still looked like a girl; And Carina Lau was almost pretty then, and we can see her allure here. Tony Leung married this Carina Lau, of course, and not the hermaphrodite in those creepy SKII ads where she seems to be playing Leslie Cheung.
This is the first film to be shot for Wong by Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle, and Days is a velvety dream set in deep, noirish shadows and claustrophobic rooms. I love the opening sequences of the lush tropical jungles; It's a romantic vision of derelict, humid apartments, rain-soaked streets and unoccupied telephone booths (is Hongkong really like that?). With Wong’s peerless 2000 film In the Mood for Love, and the inferior 2046, the films are all about a sighed longing for the past, almost fetishistic in their fixation with the imagined glamour of an era long gone. Days feels exciting, because you are watching an auteur lay the groundwork — with an assortment of clocks, watches and meticulously detailed moments — for ideas and moods Wong will obsessively follow in all his films. The elements of his aesthetic — the swooning music, the incandescent stars, the longing and repression: it's the intoxicating, drunken feeling of falling in love.

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