Days of Being Wild Review

The Film

According to Stephen Teo's book on the director, Days of Being Wild forms part of a trilogy of Wong Kar Wai films. The other two are the much better known In the Mood for Love and 2046, and all three are united by the character of Tony Leung, and all three deal with times of change, matters of the heart, and our very temporary existence. Still, it's hard to believe that the things which unite these films don't bring together nearly all of the director's work. The interlinking stories, the sense of past and pop culture, and the wistful method and content are as much in evidence in As Tears Go By and all his works up to this year's underwhelming My Blueberry Nights.

Days of Being Wild, though, does offer a template of the director's best work, and in its first half it is as strong and beguiling as that work. It begins with the seduction of Su by the commitment phobic, Yuddy, only to break off into a tributary about her heartbreak and isolation that dishy cop Andy Lau helps her with in the night-time streets. Back with Yuddy, we learn that he never knew his real mum and is blackmailed by his ageing foster mother, and his new love is determined to not let him get away whilst herself avoiding the cow eyes of Zeb, his light-fingered friend. Yet time moves on, and heartbreaks come and go, and Yuddy and our now ex-cop find themselves sharing a drunken and violent night in the Philippines.
The weakness of his second film is plain to see, the pulpy clichéd narrative comes over as melodrama because the film is formed too conventionally and with a dramatic orthodoxy that the director abandoned later. Ideas are tried but not perfected in both form and content, and they would later form part of WKW's best films as the director re-applied them more successfully. For instance, some of the musical cues would re-appear in 2046, and the final act set abroad would be a crucial part of the other elements of this trilogy.

Similarly, Andy Lau and Leslie Cheung would be partners abroad again in Happy Together with Cheung similarly wary of attachment. And with his later elegantly crossing storylines, Wong Kar Wai would improve his skills in the editing room and make better use of the familiar drama of heartbreak and the pain of time passing with much more subtlety and guile. Narrative would not handicap his later films so badly as it does here, and the future destination of events would seem more like the inscrutable passing of time than the clunky mechanics of story.
In a lot of ways then, this film shares failings that I identified in My Blueberry Nights - cliché, melodrama and obvious mechanics. After this film though, WKW went back to his elements and found ways to use them better, and found his style and direction through meticulous editing, lingering on image rather than dramatics, and pursuing his central notions around time and the human heart. He seemed to understand what worked best here, and carefully left behind, I think, the things which were less impressive. I hope history repeats itself when the director moves forward again.

Looking at his film without the knowledge of what was to come, there is much to like. The opening romances and the dialogue about time and rootlessness, the beautiful accompaniment of some of the films best images by well chosen music, and the performances of Leslie Cheung and Carina Lau. The cinematography is absolutely first rate and its green hues, deep darkness, and outbursts of lights in the night have been much copied since.
Yet, this was a work in progress and few directors are given such first rate support with a second feature. Few directors are allowed to lose money like Days of Being Wild did and still have a career, and, of course, this is all because few directors are Wong Kar Wai. Days of Being Wild doesn't quite work as a great piece of cinema, but it is certainly enjoyable to watch it try, all the while remembering what great work it paved the way for.

Transfer and Sound

I don't think I have seen a treatment of this film that could be called spotless, and the AVC/MPEG4 encode can not be described as such either. There is a murkiness that seems inherent to the print sources which limits just how clean and sharp the image can look and the preponderance of green lighting seems to exacerbate that impression too. The transfer probably shows more detail and sharpness than previous remastered discs, but as an example of a hi-def transfer it is not going to blow you away. It's far better than some at keeping the image film-like but I do feel that the print limitations need stressing. It may be as good as you are going to see the film, but don't have your hopes too high.
The sound comes in a DTS HD master audio track presumably using the same surround mix as previous releases, and again there are limits to the source material in terms of hiss and distortion. I can't comment on other releases' sound quality but this is a track which very occasionally shows its age. The chief disappointment with this release though is the subtitles which for the English track are very inelegant, clumsy, and full of strange word choices. In an action film's case this could be overlooked, but WKW's films can't be robbed of their lyricism.

Discs and Special Features

The main feature is kept company on this single layer, region free disc by four trailers. In addition to the one for the film, these are Exiled, Assembly and Perhaps Love. The operatic intensity of the trailer for the last of these films is something to behold and it made me want to find out if the film itself is just as elaborately camp. The menu is very straightforward and simple to use, and the disc uses 22.3 GB of its capacity with 20.7 GB for the main feature.

Summary

Just to repeat myself, this is a problematic transfer to judge in terms of audio and visual quality but this release does seem to be a marked improvement on previous standard def versions in both departments. Its chief drawback is the weak subtitles which rob one of cinema's most lyrical directors of a lot of his magic.

Film
7 out of 10
Video
6 out of 10
Audio
7 out of 10
Extras
3 out of 10
Overall

6

out of 10

Last updated: 18/04/2018 21:24:48

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