Wong Kar-Wai’s ‘Days of Being Wild’ on HBO Max and Criterion Channel

The second feature by Hong Kong New Wave master Wong Kar-Wai and his first collaboration with his signature cinematographer Christopher Doyle, Days of Being Wild (Hong Kong, 1990) is Wong’s first masterpiece.

The late Hong Kong superstar Leslie Cheung is all narcissism and insolence as a lothario who seduces lonely shop girl Maggie Cheung and sneering, shallow showgirl Carina Lau, apparently motivated by little more than sheer boredom. Andy Lau is the cop who watches over Maggie, Jacky Cheung is bittersweet as a sweet-natured idiot and Leslie’s doting best friend, and Rebecca Pan plays Leslie’s aging, alcoholic foster mom, who holds on to her “son” by withholding the name of his real mother.

Set in the 1960s and shot on practically deserted locations, there isn’t much “story” to the impressionistic film, but the languorous atmosphere of longing, disconnection, and emotional isolation is hypnotic. Doyle perfected Wong’s signature skip-frame technique (which Wong described as his answer to John Woo’s slow-motion action) and delivered the woozy color and intimate slow-dance handheld photography that defined Wong’s style in Chungking Express (1994) and In the Mood for Love (2000).

The score is comprised of lush instrumental Hawaiian exotica and lounge music, but the sounds of ticking clocks, echoing footsteps down empty hallways and alleys, and squeaky of windshield wipers in the rain define their empty lives and broken relationships. It’s an arthouse film with music video stylings and a pop art sensibility.

It wasn’t a commercial success but Days of Being Wild swept the Hong Kong Film Awards with five wins, including best picture, director, cinematographer, and actor (Leslie Cheung). It also made Wong’s reputation around the world, launching him a rich career of enigmatic, impressionistic, sensual films about yearning characters and unconsummated affairs where the cinematic textures are just as expressive as the performances.

Not rated, in Cantonese with English subtitles.

Add to My List on HBO Max or to My List on Criterion Channel

Also on DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Days of Bing Wild [DVD]
Days of Being Wild (import) [Blu-ray]

Don’t miss a single recommendation. Subscribe to the Stream On Demand weekly newsletter (your E-mail address will not be shared) and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

Related posts