As Tears Go By


"...feels more like an early version of Johnny To's "Moment of Romance..."

- Mighty Peking Man

As Tears Go By (1988)

AKA: Carmen of the Streets

Director: Wong Kar-Wai

Producer: Alan Tang Kwong-Wing

Writer: Wong Kar-Wai

Cast: Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Jacky Cheung Hok-Yau, Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk, Alex Man Chi-Leung, Ronald Wong Ban

Running Time: 94 min.

Plot: A low-level triad "big brother" (Andy Lau) has a hot-tempered "little brother" (Jacky Cheung) who can't keep out of trouble, and consequently is in constant need of being bailed out by his protector. Andy is super cool, but lacks the ambition to rise in the ranks of the triad societies, and once he meets his cousin (Maggie Cheung), and falls in love with her, he decides he wants to leave "the life". But it turns out that he has to bail out Jacky one more time. And this time, Jacky may have gone too far.

Availability: This title is available at


BRMANUK'S REVIEW: Wong Kar-Wai's debut feature is a moving look into the lives of two brothers; Ah-Wah (Andy Lau) and Fly (Jacky Cheung), two small time gangsters. When Ah-Ngor (played wonderfully by Maggie Cheung) comes to stay with her cousin Ah-Wah, she doesn't realize and he and his brother are gangsters working for their local godfather. Eventually she falls in love with Ah-Wah and he tries to leave his gangster life but can't due to his brother always getting in trouble with other members of their Triad family, in particular Tony (Alex Man) and his gang. It's a simple story used hundreds of times before, but Wong Kar-Wai's film-making set's it apart from the others. Instead of lacing the film with violent shoot-outs, he takes time to develop the films characters and the motives behind their actions. Eventually the viewer starts to understand them and can relate to the 'big brother protecting his little brother' theme that runs throughout. When the violence does begin (and it's very brutal), the audience feels sympathy for the two stars, and it's on this level that the film works. The film certainly isn't for everyone and is very different to WKW's later works as it lacks the 'new wave' style of those films, but it does contain the characterization, especially of the two main characters, that occurs again and again in his movies. The movie does have it's flaws though, some parts do seem to drag out and it's a bit predictable at times when you know Fly is going to get his head kicked in again, but despite this WKW fans should definitely check this out.


MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: Wong Kar-Wai enthusiasts who are expecting a "Chungking Express", an "In The Mood For Love" or even a "Days of Being Wild" may be slightly disappointed with "As Tears Go By", Wong Kar-Wai's 1988 gangster tale starring Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung and Alex Man. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the whole WKW appeal fire off with his "French New Wave" approach to filmmaking? Barely any of that is here; Even Christopher Doyle, Wong Kar-Wai's most-used cinematographer, is absent from the production. Instead, the camera work is helmed by Lau Wau Keung, who we better know as Andrew Lau (who went on to direct the popular "Young and Dangerous" series and the groundbreaking "Storm Riders"). This is about the earliest of Wong Kar-Wai's work I've yet to see, and it's apparent the he still hasn't found or developed the style that made him famous all over the world.

In some ways, "As Tears Go By" feels more like an early version of Johnny To's "Moment of Romance", which also starred Andy Lau (not to be confused with Andrew "Storm Riders" Lau). Like "Moment of Romance", it's a straight-forward love story that deals with the consequences a tough gangster must face due to his violent and troublesome lifestyle. It's a plot that's been visited numerous times in Hong Kong cinema alone: Gangster falls in love with woman, woman falls in love with gangster, gangster must finish the job, woman begs him to stay, gangster must help his friend, woman tells him it's dangerous, gangster's fate becomes tragic and woman's heart becomes broken and abandoned. But since "As Tears Go By" was made in 1988, you gotta give it some credit. I guess.

As expected from a brilliant director like Wong Kar-Wai, the two lead performances are full of light. Maggie Cheung's natural beauty and emotions are captured to perfection. Andy Lau appears to be more ambitious about his acting than the usual mass of flicks he's put out. As for Jackie Cheung and Alex Man...well, someone should have whispered in their ears and said, "Hey Jackie. Hey Alex. This ain't a Wong Jing film man!". I don't know much about Alex Man, but Jackie Cheung could certainly do better. Just watch John Woo's "Bullet in the Head". Of course, these performance flaws are just my opinion - so if you're the president of the "Jackie Cheung and Alex Man Fan Club", don't hate me.

I have a question...

What the hell was Berlin's 1986 theme song to "Top Gun" doing here? I don't mind cover versions of popular American songs in Hong Kong movies (especially when sung by Faye Wong or Kelly Chen), but to actually take a theme song from another movie!? That's truly corny. Not only that, but the Chinese one they used sounds like it came from a Karaoke bar in Hell! It also doesn't help that they play it at least a few times off and on (just like in "Top Gun") for a good several or so minutes. I'm surprised they didn't use some song from "Grease" or "Officer and a Gentleman" just to have a widely known love song in the movie. I'm probably getting a little carried away, but in all seriousness, a Wong Kar-Wai film is the last place I'd look for a bad remake of a song that belonged to another movie. But then again, "As Tears Go By" isn't exactly a trademark Wong Kar-Wai film.

Worth seeing.