The Ah Fei movies of the 1950s featured characters sporting James Dean hairstyles and mannerisms, but not all of them were meant to be heroes. The term “Ah Fei” denotes a young hoodlum, a delinquent or scapegrace in Cantonese. “Fei” literally means “fly, ” a metaphor for youth old enough to sprout wings and fly away from controlling parents, and once flown, usually degenerates into socially unacceptable modes of behaviour. The term is time-specific, being generally in use in the 1950s and 60s.
Days of Being Wild rather self-consciously alludes to the Ah Fei genre: first, in its Cantonese title A Fei Zhengzhuan (The Story of an Ah Fei), which was incidentally the Chinese title for Rebel Without a Cause when it was released in Hong Kong. Second, Yuddy alludes to Ah Fei metaphorically in a monologue early in the film: “I heard tell that in this world, there’s a bird without legs. It can only fly and fly. When it’s tired it sleeps in the wind. It lands on earth only once in its life. That is when it dies.” The bird and flight metaphor is already implicit in the Ah Fei label, which Yuddy obviously wears with some pride, and The Story of an Ah Fei is his story.
- Stephen Teo
Days of being wild