From the July 1, 1991 Chicago Reader. — J.R.
Wong Kar-wai’s idiosyncratic style first became apparent in this gorgeously moody second feature (1991), whose romantic vision of 1960 Hong Kong as a network of unfulfilled longings would later echo through In the Mood for Love. Leslie Cheung, Hong Kong’s answer to James Dean (in fact the movie appropriates its Cantonese title of Rebel Without a Cause), plays a heartless ladies’ man, raised by a prostitute, who eventually leaves for the Philippines in search of his real mother. Maggie Cheung is a waitress whom he woos with his philosophical ruminations on a wall clock, and Andy Lau is a lonely cop who yearns for her. This was conceived as the first of two movies, and its puzzling coda was intended as a teaser for the second part; the box-office failure of Days of Being Wild precluded a sequel and delayed its stateside release for years, though its lack of dramatic closure now seems almost appropriate. As critic Tony Rayns has noted, it’s the first film to rhyme nostalgia for a half-imaginary past with future shock. In Cantonese with subtitles. 94 min. (JR)