Hong Kong 1960: York (Leslie Cheung) is a vain, amoral sexual predator abandoned in his childhood. In his youth he drifts through a series of casual friendships and affairs with one purpose, to discover the identity of his natural mother. In fear of being abandoned his foster mother refuses to tell him of his real mother's whereabouts. As his failed romances start to haunt him, his spurned lovers begin to confide in and become closer to others. When his foster mother reveals that she is leaving he country, York makes a final plea to learn of his real mother, leading to unlikely paths crossing and a harsh reality being learnt.
Wong Kar Wai seems to me like a director you either love or hate. Having seen quite a number of his films, all of which have people who will sing the praises of the film for eternity, only In The Mood For Love did I like. I admit his style is a little too arty and sort of abstract for me at times, so I don't always get what is meant to be going on, but I do appreciate that the films are without exception shot beautifully.
Fortunately Days Of Being Wild is one of Wong's films that I think I actually get most of! The story is simple, focusing on a few characters, how their paths cross and how they react to and with each other. The style is still quite arty as there isn't the same apparent time progression that viewers are generally used to in the more mainstream film. Here from one scene to the next it is possible that time will have jumped many months and the viewers are supposed to just pick up on this themselves. Once used to this style it, I didn't mind it at all, but at first it made the film a little hard to follow.
While the main character's (Leslie Cheung) prime task in the film is to find out who his real mother is, the film acts as more of a character study of how he gets into, and treats women in his relationships. Through learning about the people around him, most notably his relationship with his adopted mother, we build up a picture of how he became as he his and why he treats women as he does. There are definitely some watchable moments in there, although for my liking not enough, and Cheung does put in a convincing, charming boyish performance.
On one of the Asian movie forums that I frequent, one user stated that he "absolutely loved" Days Of Being Wild and that it was his number one movie of all time. While I do appreciate that everyone has their own tastes, I just cannot see it with this film. Granted it has an interesting character in York, but the story around him is good, but not great. The interactions of the secondary characters lead to again quite interesting stories, but again nothing overly engaging. I could not see anything below a well shot, fairly interesting drama that would merit this film another watch. I've heard often that you have to watch Wong Kar Wai movies several times to allow the film to grow on you and to get more of the film. I don't like that idea at all. If a film doesn't hit the mark on the first go, why make yourself endure the duration again? I would rather watch something else that might hit the mark instead.
The film is quite arty in its style, but I feel I managed to cope with it until the very end. Apparently a lot of other scenes were originally filmed for Days Of Being Wild, but were cut from the film for one reason or another. In those scenes were almost all the scenes involving Hong Kong superstar Tony Leung Chiu Wai. I say almost as he still has one, completely irrelevant, puzzling scene at the very end of the film. I say "puzzling" because the very last scene of the film introduces Tony Leung's character to the film, with no explanation and no purpose. He simply gets dressed for going out and then the film ends. I was left seriously bamboozled by this and could not figure out what just happened. I then convinced myself I must have missed some scenes with him earlier in the film, but alas, no. he just gets ready and that's it. It makes absolutely no sense and should definitely have been cut with the rest of his scenes, as prior to that I felt that the film had reached a good finishing note. Interestingly, the character is meant to be the same character from In The Mood For Love. A little bit of trivia that but useless nonetheless.
The acting is good, the cinematography is very good and the story is interesting and decent, but that's it. I didn't feel any life in the film or a great deal of emotion. I didn't care for the characters that much and what happened to them just happened with neither happiness nor regret on my part. Regarding Wong Kar Wai, I'm going to sit on the fence and say that I neither love nor hate his work, but definitely don't see what all the fuss about it is.
Audio & Subtitles
Oh dear, this is not a good DVD to get. The Cantonese 2.1 audio track sounds really quite poor. If you imagine all the speech and effects were recorded in an enclosed, small, metallic room, this audio track is something like how it would sound. There is a metallic sounding echo to every piece of audio that comes from the speakers, which is very off putting. Some speech has a bit of distortion on it, particularly in some 's' sounds. Volume levels, however, were decent and there definitely was some stereo separation in the audio at times.
The subtitles fared just as poorly. Aside from frequent spelling and grammar errors, there were also many instances of missing words from sentences. I think I was able to get the gist of what was meant but the subs certainly didn't make it easy for me!
On par with the audio and subtitles is the picture quality. There are constant speckles and other marks flickering on screen for the whole film. Clearly no restoration work on the original film print went into the production of this DVD. There are many frames of damaged print too, which doesn't make things any better. Colours are inconsistent and in many scenes the colours sort of vibrate, getting slightly stronger and then fading in a pulsing motion. Some scenes have very washed out looking colours and possibly some colour bleeding too. Detail level is not high with a very soft looking print. In all honesty, the picture looks like you're watching a VHS and not a great one at that.
DVD & Extras
The DVD comes with a trailer for the film, information on the cast and crew, a film synopsis and a photo gallery. Unfortunately for non-Korean readers, both the cast and crew info and the synopsis are in Korean.
I'm not Wong Kar Wai's biggest fan and I'm not his biggest hater either. Days Of Being Wild is nothing special at all. There are some interesting scenes, but nothing that kept me gripped and interested in the film throughout its duration. In my opinion Wong Kar Wai is over-rated and while this may be among his better films that I've seen, it is still only average at best.