As Tears Go By

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As Tears Go By

Long before Wong Kar-wai perfected his dreamy, ennui-infused aesthetic (or got hopelessly stuck in blueberry goo), he made a name for himself with this warhorse tale of small-time hoods on the road to ruin. Every director has to start somewhere, and in Wong’s case, that meant giving Hong Kong cinema its own Mean Streets: Andy Lau is the Keitelesque wise guy, Jacky Cheung is the dangerously unpredictable screwup, and an oh-so-young Maggie Cheung provides the long-suffering romantic interest. Poses are struck, punches are thrown, and lines are crossed as the film slouches toward a no-future ending.

Seen back in the day, As Tears Go By must have seemed like a moodier alternative to all that HK hyperkineticism; it’s impossible to watch Wong’s debut now, however, without scouring the stock plot for traces of future genius. The filmmaker hasn’t yet figured out how to properly employ a pop narcotic (Marianne Faithfull’s hit is MIA, though you do get a Cantonese rendition of “Take My Breath Away”), and he’s only coyly flirting with stylistic flourishes. But Wong’s baby steps are still strong enough to make you sit up and take notice; the minute you see that opening shot of neon-blue TV monitors, you sense that a major player has stepped into the fold.

By: David Fear


Release details

Release date: Tuesday June 9 1998
Duration: 102 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Wong Kar-wai
Screenwriter: Wong Kar-wai
Cast: Andy Lau
Jacky Cheung
Maggie Cheung
Alex Man