An abusive womaniser (the late Leslie Cheung) leaves Hong Kong in search of his birth mother in the Philippines in Wong Kar-wai’s second feature.
If As Tears Go By was a crime film with romantic elements, Days of Being Wild is the other way round, though anti-romantic might be a better descriptor given the tortured state of its characters. Wong keeps hold of Tears‘ key actors (Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung and Jacky Cheung) but swaps the high-energy eccentricity for a moody drama and loses momentum in the process, since the love lives of the beautiful are not that interesting, nor are they particularly pleasant company.
Thankfully he has retained his scintillating style and gained a long-term creative partner in cinematographer Christopher Doyle, whose incredible use of light makes bare apartments and rain-pummelled streets into beautiful green-tinted portraits, like bathing your eyes in liquid jade. The recurrence of clocks, mirrors and fans makes for an elliptical entry into what would become Wong’s Love Trilogy, but without levity or likability it proves numbing to watch people chasing misery.
The pace picks up once we get to the Philippines, including some truly masterful camerawork, but the movie ends just as it seems to be getting started. This leaves Days of Being Wild rather like its characters: looks great, but tends to grate.