We at ReelGood are above all, lovers of cinema. And maybe awesome people second. We’ve been releasing these articles called ‘Overrated’ recently, and would like to balance out the hate with a bit of love. Here’s UNDERRATED, and we’re more than happy to suggest some films you should go and check out right now.
Days of Being Wild (1990)
Director: Wong Kar Wai (As Tears Go By, Chungking Express, Ashes of Time, Fallen Angels, Happy Together, In The Mood For Love, 2046, My Blueberry Nights, The Grandmaster)
Starring: Leslie Cheung, Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau, Jacky Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai
Synopsis: An aimless youth in Hong Kong in the 1960s goes through friends and women with little regard for their feelings
Perhaps we should change the name of this column to ‘Go Check This Movie Out Right Now Because It’s Awesome’, because I’m using the term ‘underrated’ fairly loosely here. In fact, Days of Being Wild really isn’t underrated at all; Wong Kar Wai is one of the most prolific international directors working today. It’s by-and-large a given that critics worship every film the man releases and Days of Being Wild, Wong’s second feature (but really the first to establish his distinctive aesthetic), is no exception. It often however, falls under the radar compared to Wong’s more celebrated films like Chungking Express (1994) Happy Together (1997) and his biggest commercial success In the Mood for Love (2000). And since this column is about bringing less widely appreciated films to the public eye and also I co-founded this website so really I can do what I want, Days of Being Wild is the focus of this edition of ‘Underrated’. If the Academy isn’t going to properly recognize international cinema, then godammit I guess ReelGood will just have to do it for em.
Often described as the Cantonese Rebel Without A Cause (although I’m not sure by whom, I just read it on Wikipedia), Days of Being Wild is the first of a trilogy of semi-related films, the other two being In The Mood for Love and 2046. It’s Wong Kar Wai’s first feature film with Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle, with whom he has worked on every film since and it launched the loosely plotted, mood-focused style that has made their succeeding films so distinctive.
It’s the discovery of that very style that makes Days of Being Wild so exciting. Like its fiery protagonist Yuddy, Days of Being Wild is raw and energetic, the soul of youth felt in every frame. Many of Wong Kar Wai’s frequent acting collaborators who we’ve seen grow older in his subsequent films, feature in various roles. Wong has pretty much built a career around filming Tony Leung smoking in slow motion (sounds like a criticism, but it’s not); Leung’s cameo in Days is the first time the two worked together. Leung is the star of Wong’s upcoming The Grandmaster, twenty-three years later.
But the film belongs to Leslie Cheung, who would go onto work again with Wong in Ashes of Time and Happy Together before his untimely death in 2003. His smoldering, angsty Yuddy is more James Dean than James Dean. There’s an effortless exhilaration to Leung’s performance that entirely grasps the temper of Days of Being Wild.
Days of Being Wild is a ball of electricity about love, the explosive frustration of youth and the discovery of Wong Kar Wai’s style. I’ve seen a lot of reviews that call Days a ‘blueprint’ for his later work, especially In The Mood For Love. Days of Being Wild is unrefined no doubt, but read the title, watch the film again and take in Leslie Cheung’s performance. The roughness is what makes it so mesmerizing.