Set in 1960, the film centers on the young, boyishly handsome Yuddy, who learns from the drunken ex-prostitute who raised him that she is not his real mother.
Wong Kar-Wais 1990 tale of disaffected youth in 60s Hong Kong borrows the Chinese title for the 1955 classic Rebel Without A Cause. Leslie Cheung (Farewell My Concubine) is Yuddi, a slick and sophisticated boy, vain, shiftless and easily bored by his romantic encounters first with the innocent bar-girl Su Lizhen (Maggie Cheung) and later with the more sophisticated hostess, Mimi Lulu (Carina Lau). Both women are spellbound by his matinee idol looks and apparent indifference to their charms, but the gentle Su, after being assured of Yuddis love, is roughly thrown over for Mimi.
Yuddis scorn for womenkind in general is reinforced later on when it is revealed that the woman he has come to regard as his mother a drunken harlot is not, and that his real mother is living somewhere in the Phillipines. Yuddi then embarks on a strange voyage of discovery, falling in with various dubious characters en route to find her, leaving the two women behind to find their own identities.
This paints a highly evocative picture of a steamy and claustrophic world of Brylcreemed hair, Dansettes, stilettos and a youth culture which seems as unmotivated and self-obsessed as the Slacker generation. Stylistically it hovers between noirish(ital) homage all murky street corners and stark lighting and cinema verite conversations dribble on endlessly, and sound effects are overemphasised. And although it tends to drag its feet at times, the swooping camerawork and gloriously rich colours pull it all together and ensure automatic seduction.
Style over substance, but very stylish indeed.