Wo hu cang long (2000)

reviewed by
Bob Bloom

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) 4 stars out of 4. Starring Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen and Cheng Peipei. Written by James Schamus, Wang Hui Ling and Tsai Kuo Jung. Based on a novel by Wang Du Lu. Music by Tan Dun. Directed by Ang Lee. Rated PG-13.

If you see one movie this year, I strongly urge that it be Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

This Ang Lee spectacle combines soaring adventure with a rousing love story.

It is epic filmmaking on a grand scale. Oh, and it is in Mandarin.

Lee, best known for work behind the camera on Sense and Sensibility and The Ice Storm, has returned to his roots, filming a novel by Wang Du Lu.

The story dealing with warrior wizards is similar to the stories Lee grew up with.

The protagonists of this two-hour epic are Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat), Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) and Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi).

ChowÝs Li is a world-weary warrior ready to give up his ways. To prove so he asks Shu Lien to present his legendary sword, The Green Destiny, to Sir Te as a gift and token of his respect and devotion.

However, shortly after carrying out her mission, the sword is stolen by a mysterious warrior.

Li and Shu Lien then begin a series of adventures in which they seek the sword and this new warrior.

Meanwhile, Shu Lien grows close to Jen, a young woman betrothed in marriage who seeks an alternative life. She, of course, is the mysterious thief and is as skilled in the ways of the warrior as Li and Shu Lien.

Any description of this movie does it an injustice. It is one that must be seen to be appreciated. ItÝs grandeur and craftsmanship must be viewed first-hand..

Especially spectacular are the martial arts sequences, choreographed by Woo-ping Yuen, who also staged the fights in The Matrix. Here, the combatants fly over rooftops, confront each other on slim tree limbs hundreds of feet of the ground and glide over water.

 ItÝs a breathtaking experience.

But what really makes Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon so appealing is the human element. Screenwriters James Schamus, Wang Hui Ling and Tsai Kuo Jung present us with characters who have a history, who have weight.

The unrequited love between Li and Shu Lien, their warrior code, their sacrifices, are all the more poignant because we come to care for them.

Jen, too, is presented as a complex, headstrong individual who wrestles with herself before finally deciding on a path to follow.

What is also interesting is that for a movie of this stripe, the bloodshed is at a minimum. ItÝs the beauty of the combat that Lee emphasizes, not the outcome.

Lee is ably assisted by cinematographer Peter Pau, who has captured some exquisite landscapes and vistas, as well as the music of Tan Dun ˇ aided by cello solos by Yo-Yo Ma ˇ which sets a kind of mythic tone for the movie.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is an exuberant movie exercise. It neatly captures the potential of the cinema to take you into a foreign culture and get you caught up in its mythology.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a sure bet to win the best foreign language film at the Academy Awards. I also think Lee should be recognized in the directorÝs category for this splendid achievement.

This is a must-see experience for anyone who loves movies. It will leave you gasping, awed and overwhelmed. Don't deny yourselves the pleasure of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It is monumental.

Bob Bloom is the film critic at the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, IN. He can be reached by e-mail at bloom@journal-courier.com or at bobbloom@iquest.net Other reviews by Bloom can be found at www.jconline.com by clicking on golafayette. Bloom's reviews also can be found on the Web at the Internet Movie Database site: http://www.imdb.com/M/reviews_by?Bob+Bloom

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