CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (2000) PG-13; running time 120 minutes Genre: Martial Arts/Drama Seen at: Lowes Star Southfield (Detroit, Michigan) Official site: http://www.crouchingtiger.com/ IMDB site: http://us.imdb.com/Details?0190332 Written by: Hui-Ling Wang, James Schamus, Kuo Jung Tsai (based on the book by Du Lu Wang) Directed by: Ang Lee Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Cheng Peipei, Chang Chen, Sihung Lung, Gao Xi'an, Li Li, Li Fa Feng, Hai Yan, Wang Deming (Tsai)
Review Copyright Rose Cooper, 2001 Review URL: http://www.3blackchicks.com/bamscrouchtiger.html
If your idea of A Good Time doesn't include watching a two-hour movie that scoffs at the laws of gravity, involves warrior chicks kickin' butt and taking names, and does so without a single line of spoken English, you might want to skip this review and the movie it speaks fondly of: CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. Obviously, high fantasy isn't your Thing.
I hope you'll forgive me if I snicker at some of you as I recall how much you liked STAR WARS...
The Story (WARNING: **spoilers contained below**): In 19th century Qing Dynasty China, warrior Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat), seeking a more peaceful existence, gives his Green Destiny sword to fellow warrior - and the object of his desire - Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), asking her to deliver it to Sir Te (Sihung Lung) for safekeeping. Yu Shu Lien regretfully does so, but soon afterwards, a stealthy thief steals the sword from Sir Te's camp.
Suspicion falls upon members of the House of Governor Yu (Li Fa Feng), who, along with Madam Yu (Hai Yan), their willful daughter Jen (Zhang Ziyi), and Jen's Governess (Cheng Peipei), have come to visit Sir Te in preparations for Jen's arranged marriage to nobility. As Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien set out to find the thief, they discover there's more to Jen than meets the eye - including her involvement with a desert marauder named Lo (Chang Chen).
The Upshot: It amuses me somewhat that the fantasy-like acrobatics, and the English subtitles, would be an impenetrable barrier to anyone enjoying CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (hereafter, "CT/HD"); with some of the tripe thrown at American audiences during the M2K movie year, an inventive movie like CT/HD should be like a breath of fresh air. My amusement aside, CT/HD did take some getting used to, I must admit. But the learning curve wasn't at all steep; after only a few minutes, the audience I was in fully got into the spirit of the film, heartily applauding the magnificent combat scenes, laughing during appropriate moments, and generally following the story from start to moving finish.
CT/HD was worth any needed extra effort to watch it. I've long appreciated the vast talents of Michelle Yeoh (who I first saw in, of all things, a 007 flick) and Chow Yun-Fat (one of the best things about 1999's ANNA AND THE KING). They continued to please here, all around; the actors and their characters seemed to effortlessly compliment each other on, and off, the fighting arena, Yu Shu Lien's strength of presence being a good match for Li Mu Bai's confident nobility. Much more a surprise was the striking Zhang Ziyi as the reluctant bride-to-be, Jen. She was, in every sense of the word, stunning; her character as spirited as she was beautiful, it wasn't hard to see why Li Mu Bai was enchanted by the willful Jen. A strong supporting cast - including Cheng Peipei in a dual role, Chang Chen as Lo, Jen's sensuous desert lover, Gao Xi'an as the diligent guardsman Bo, and Li Li as his diligent daughter Mai - helped to elevate the CT/HD storyline far above the standard "You Killed My Master!" plot of most martial arts flicks.
Much of the credit for the depth of CT/HD goes to its brilliant director, Ang Lee, and the equally-brilliant camerawork by cinematographer Peter Pau. Recognition and appreciation of movie artists besides the actors, being my reviewing Achilles' Heel, I definitely had to sit up and take notice of Lee's and Pau's handiwork behind-the-camera. Credit, too, to CT/HD fight choreographer Woo-ping Yuen, costumer Tim Yip, and to Yo-Yo Ma, whose cello provided CT/HD with a haunting musical touch. Thought THE MATRIX had it goin' on? You ain't seen nuttin' until you see Chow Yun-Fat walk on water, or Zhang Ziyi knock big bad brutes back into yesterday. And the weapons used throughout this film kept me - a big-time weaponry fan - salivating (and at one point, laughing; watch for a late scene with Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi, to see what tickled my funny bone).
The lasting beauty of CT/HD is that its pageantry, its tender love stories, and its humor are never eclipsed by its awe-inspiring action; each element is as integral as the next. Ironically, given the aspersions cast upon the martial arts genre as a whole, the same can't be said of many standard Hollywood movies these days. This, I think, is a key factor in why CT/HD has taken so many people by surprise: who'da thunk a kung-fu flick could be *deep*?
Even at this length, my review can't do justice to CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON; any attempts I make to describe this genre-breaking movie, fall woefully short of the mark. Trust me; even if you have to go out of your way to see it (as I did - Lansing "Podunkville Central" Michigan still not being a Selected City), it's well worth the trip.
The "Black Factor" [ObDisclaimer: We Are Not A Monolith]: You'll have to forgive me again - I know that gang involvement is not truly a Black Factor issue, no more so than any stereotypically monolithic and destructive activity Blacks are unproportionately involved in - but I couldn't help but be struck by the parallels to modern-day street gangs when Lo spoke of his affiliation with the desert gang that he rode with as being "family", and a "noble" part of his life. Realities of gang warfare aside, I wonder how American movie audiences would take to ongoing depictions of gang members as sympathetic, even admirable, characters. Not too well, I'd reckon.
GOODFELLAS and GODFATHERs, not inclusive.
Bammer's Bottom Line: Once I accepted the gravity-lawbreaking, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON was as moving a work of art as any I've ever witnessed; a majestic master stroke from Ang Lee that takes martial arts cinema to a whole new level. I will be shocked - shocked! - if Oscar doesn't smile warmly upon this film.
CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (rating: greenlight): Say what you will about the inherent weirdness in CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON; but *one* thing's for sure: this ain't your father's kung-fu flick.
Rose "Bams" Cooper Webchick and Editor, 3BlackChicks Review Movie Reviews With Flava! Copyright Rose Cooper, 2001 EMAIL: email@example.com http://www.3blackchicks.com/
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