In his introduction to Thursday night’s screening of Wong Kar-wai’s Days of Being Wild, critic Jamie Wolf noted that when the film debuted in Hong Kong in 1990, it shared the same Chinese title as another movie that had swept the city off its feet more than fifty years earlier – Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause. In spite of this, and barring certain similarities – Wong’s Leslie Cheung shares the same playboy abandon as a young James Dean – the film is distinctly and recognizably Wong’s own. Adapting Rebel’s 1950s malaise to what Andrew Chan refers to as “postcolonial-nostalgia cinema,” Wong casts aside coherent narrative in favor of carefully crafted ambiance, and the film progresses from one sequestered character to another before finally culminating in its own melodramatic, Dean-worthy ending.
As a lush pastiche of suffused colors and silenced emotion, Days of Being Wild is an early example of a masterful director’s emerging style, replete with the aesthetic and thematic motifs that would soon be recognized as signature Wong Kar-wai. Samba wafts across damp rooms and verdant landscapes; young lovers escape through smoky clubs and rainy nights, and ultimately, 1960s Hong Kong is transformed into a breathing backdrop for the quiet melodrama of its inhabitants. Days of Being Wild also marks the first collaboration between Wong and cinematographer Christopher Doyle, a partnership that is evident in the film’s distinctive camerawork, which alternates between brash voyeurism and inquisitive observation with equal ease. If there was any doubt, Days of Being Wild confirms Wong’s position as a filmmaker of the highest order, and one of the few great auteurs working in cinema today.
– Jessica Loudis