Though as gritty as any 80’s Hong Kong gangster picture, As Tears Go By is a watershed film heralding one of the most auspicious directorial debuts in international cinema. Wong Kar-Wai’s visually stunning, tough and romantic 1988 first feature deftly smuggles the director’s now celebrated genius into an incendiary “Heroic Bloodshed” street opera of the John Woo mold.
Already stretched to breaking in a loyalty tug of war between Triad bosses and his loose cannon partner, Wah (Andy Lau), a rising star in the HK underworld, finds himself saddled with beautiful, ailing country cousin Ngor. As an escalating test of wills with a stubborn debtor explodes into bloodshed and a mob turncoat instigates a ruthless police crackdown, Wah’s growing fascination with Ngor becomes his last chance for escape from a violent past and a dubious future.
Cast in comic eye candy roles prior to As Tears Go By, Maggie Cheung (In the Mood for Love) cites Ngor, her first of many collaborations with Wong Kar-Wai, as the character that truly began her dramatic career. Under Wong Kar-Wai’s direction, Jacky Cheung (Days of Being Wild) earned the 1988 Hong Kong Film Awards Best Actor Award for his portrayal of Wah’s guilt-ridden, out of control partner Fly. Balancing epiphanous imagery with experimentation and realism with brazen romanticism, Wong Kar-Wai’s As Tears Go By offers a tantalizing glimpse into the nascent brilliance of one of the most influential filmmaking talents of the last twenty years. –Kino
Born in Shanghai, he moved to Hong Kong with his parents at the age of five. Coming from the Mainland and speaking only Mandarin and Shanghainese, he had a difficult period of adjustment to Cantonese speaking Hong Kong, spending hours in movie theatres with his mother. He made his directing debut in 1988 with As Tears Go By, produced by Alan Tang. It was a crime melodrama of the kind then hugely popular, and with heavy borrowings from Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets (1974), but already displayed one of his principal trademarks in its atmospheric and sometimes expressionistic color palette. It is his only box office hit to date. Wong went on to direct several more feature films in the 1990s, among these were Chungking Express (1994), Fallen Angels (1995), Ashes of Time (1994). His first major international recognition was at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival where he won the Best Director prize for Happy Together (1997). The filming of In the Mood for Love (2000) had to be shifted from Beijing… read more
80s Films with the Song "Take My Breath Away," Ranked 1. As Tears Go By 2. Top Gun
This raw, gritty tale of gangster life that echoes Scorsese’s Mean Streets has a vastly different tone to the majority of Wong’s filmography. More in line with the films of John Woo - with hyper-violence taking centre stage - it’s entertaining without ever being captivating. Neat camerawork and an enjoyably cheesy soundtrack are additional plus points. Moderately commendable.