East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Days of Being Wild: They've never been so tired in their lives

It's no disgrace that Days of Being Wild isn't the best of Wong Kar-wai's movies, since in the following decade he raised his game to such great heights. That it's a marvelous experience in any case isn't in question. At this point Leslie Cheung and WKW himself and upstart cinematographer Chris Doyle are in their thirties, with all their trademarks in place; they're just waiting for the right story to tell. Meanwhile the big names of Hong Kong entertainment in the Nineties - Maggie and Andy and Carina and Jacky and, for an inexplicable moment, Tony - are younger, still a mere twenty or forty movies into their careers. For all its formal invention, Days offers largely the same pleasures as a classic MGM starfest like Grand Hotel.

Leslie Cheung's the best actor at this point, solitary, spoiled and seductive. But Maggie Cheung, who doesn't get a lot of screen time, almost steals the movie just by looking like she does while being shot by WKW and Doyle - she haunts the movie, so that the talented Carina Lau seems lessened, in the way that Joan Crawford seemed lessened in the same picture as Garbo. The depth will come in a few years with Chungking Express (even if you think that movie is frivolous just after you've finished watching it, after a while it strikes you that the feelings are as large as you've ever seen on the screen); Days of Being Wild achieves awesomeness a harder way, through sheer force of personality.

Further reading: "Difficult to follow on a first viewing (although not thereafter), the movie may feel shifty as smoke, but it's composed entirely of straight cuts. The various flashbacks and flash-forwards are marked by abrupt transitions that give no indication of elapsed time. This succession of privileged moments is less evocation of the past than nostalgia for the present." (J. Hoberman, Village Voice)


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