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Crouching Tiger is Ang Lee's take on the Wu Xia tradition of film
making. Wu Xia, for those not familiar with the style, evolved out of
popular Chinese fiction. It contains formulaic elements such as
honourable warriors, powerful swordswomen, powerful swords, and often
magic and mythical beasts. Possibly, it has a parallel with sword and
sorcery pulp literature and even Western romances.
Although he grew up in Taiwan, not Hong Kong or China, Ang Lee has said he has always wanted to make a Wu Xia film. When he did, he brought sophistication and strong production values which, while not uncommon in mainstream Chinese cinema, was less common in the martial arts or Wu Xia traditions.
Make no mistake; Crouching Tiger is a beautiful, beautiful movie. The colours are rich, the light dances and the movements are balletic. But unlike lesser imitations, such as Hero, it is much more than that just stylish production and mesmerising action.
Most films (Western or Eastern) have a rigid plot against which characters move. At worst the characters become ciphers; they advance the story by making choices regardless of whether these choices are in keeping with their character. Crouching Tiger, like the best of cinema, has dynamic characters whose internal struggles advance the plot. The dog wags the tail, not the other way around.
At the heart of Crouching Tiger is the relationship between Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) and Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh). Mu Bai is looking for a way out of the Gang Ho (Warrior) lifestyle he joins a monastery, as a route to enlightenment and peace, but cannot cast aside his unrequited love for Shu Lien (another warrior). On the brink of declaring their love for one another, Mu Bai's Green Destiny Sword is stolen, and his arch enemy returns. He must temporarily put aside his feelings to recover the sword and bring his master's killer to justice Seeming to take a fair chunk from his previously directorial role, Sense and Sensibility, Ang Lee weaves a story which tragically juxtaposes the loving and giving but repressed relationship of Mu Bai and Shu Lien, with the fiery, wilful and destructive passions of Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi) and Lo (Chang Chen). The result, for me, was breathtaking.
Some critics have suggested that the characterisation is quite slight. I think this just demonstrates the high standard to which they were prepared to judge this film. Ang Lee perfectly marries action/adventure with drama. The results may not please purists from either camp, but for the rest of the audience it is pure magic.
In many ways, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is pure Wu Xia. But it has also re-invented the genre and given it artistic credibility. The greatest joy of the film is watching great Hong Kong stars like Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh being given characters with depth and watching them fill the screen with their performances. The film also benefits from great performances from Zhang Ziyi and a very under-rated Chang Chen.
Quite simply, Crouching Tiger has everything. It is beautiful, breathtaking and deeply moving. 9½ /10
There's a telling moment near the beginning of Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger,
In closeup, we see the rough-hewn, heavy wooden wheels of a peasant cart. They nestle in deep ruts worn into the stone paving blocks of a roadway entering a gated city. The cart rumbles on, its wheels fitting perfectly into the grooves worn by unspoken centuries of just such passing wagons...in one image we see how tradition creates its own paths, how contemporary reality is fabricated to fit such traditions... The camera rises, we see an almost impossible panorama of Peking, the Forbidden City spreading out before us like an Oz extending to the horizon.
What a film this is: a superb action adventure romance with terrific acting and a much-welcome heart underlying the technical superiority.
"Crouching Tiger...", I am told, is representative of a specific literary/cinematic genre in China: Wu Xia...the wizard/warrior piece...magic and martial arts blended. I'm not familiar with the form, but the world portrayed here is a breathtakingly fantastical one. The story is putatively set in 19th century China, but it could be anywhere, anywhen. It is a place of high honor and deep feelings, a place where people are bound by traditions and held captive by their forms. It is also a place of wild and mythic landscapes...from stark desert (thought nowhere do we get that featureless, wide-screen linear horizon seen in David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia!") to magic misty green mountains with deep dark lakes and steeply cascading streams that come braiding, tumbling down the rockslide heights. High, reedy bamboo forests wave, wondrous, in sighing winds.
In this world people may do amazing things. The flying in this movie -- properly called "wire work" in film terms -- is fantastic. This technique, of course, was not invented by the Wachowski's, but the choreographer of "Crouching Tiger...", Woo-ping Yuen, also staged the wire-fights of "Matrix." Here, the ability of our warrior heros and villains to climb walls, to leap to the rooftops and soar from building to building -- not to mention engaging each other in aerial combat that soars from the peak of a mountain top to the rocks of a mountain stream in a single take -- or to duel on the very tips of dipping, waving bamboo trees -- looks almost plausible, just over the border of the possible, at least. The whole packed-in audience at the big theater at the advanced screening at Pipers Alley in Chicago burst into spontaneous applause several times throughout...
At other moments, I found myself in weepy transport. As I think of the fight in the treetops, right now, I become drippy -- tingly of eye and sinus.
Apart from all else, this is grand storytelling! It has passion, love, revenge...it expresses deep need and longing.
And, yes, the woman are the action hearts of the film! Michelle Yeoh is wonderful...but I've been in love with her for years. Here, she is more mature, quieter, wiser than in any role I've seen her in. Her performance is strong and moving, her face registering, magically, a range of conflicting emotions, hidden secrets, crouching angers, all at once. In acting training we were always told you can't do that. She does it.
Chow Yun Fat, too...I've been a fan of his since I first discovered John Woo's Hong Kong crime thrillers...is the best I've ever seen, as well...magnificent in his silences. Strength without cruelty.
The center of the film is a girl who looks to be about 15! Ziyi Zhang whose date of birth is given as 1979. Zhang is from Beijing, China, and has only one other film credit. She is remarkable. Her story is the film's binding element. And this newcomer holds it together! Holding her own with Yeoh and Chow in both dramatic material and in the balletic martial pas des dieux's that frame the conflicts between characters. She is the "Luke Skywalker" of the piece, if you will...though "Crouching Tiger..." has everything the "Star Wars" saga aspires to: excitement, thrills and magic. Here however, technical fireworks are wrapped heart and deeply resonant spirit. Elements Lukasfilm wanted to have, but which it succeeded in providing only in the most self-conscious way.
By the way: this is an action film, almost uniquely without violence...or, rather, the violence is so stylized, so removed into some mystical realm, that it almost disappears into dance. There is, I believe, only one small splash of blood on-screen. Typically, I don't like that -- figuring that if you're going to do a film where violence is part of it all, where action advances plot, let's have it full-bore, the "Full Peckinpaw," if you will. Here, however, this stylization works beautifully with action sequences that take the breath away and inspire a sense of awe, rather than simply leave you white-knuckled and sweaty.
There are those who will grumble that Jackie Chan (another favorite of mine) does it all for real, without wires and tricks. True enough... But here that exuberance of motion is in service of a grand story and strong characters who carry worthwhile emotional burdens!
I won't be able to wait for the DVD, and will probably see it again, perhaps see it twice before it hits the home-market.
My recommendation: Just go see it.
As Ang Lee, I grew up reading wuxia novels in Taiwan. Those novels usually
mixed engrossing history, thrilling action, enchanting romance. But when
these novels were made into movies or TV series, none of them could match
imagination. It's either because of wrong casting, bad acting, tedious
costumes, sloppy storytelling, minimal budget (so everything is shot in
studio rather than in the grand Chinese landscapes as they were told in
books), fake action... I could go on and on. Now Ang Lee finally made a
wuxia film that captures my imagination and fulfills my dream of childhood.
The casting of CTHD is perfect. No disrespect to Jet Li, but Jet Li would not make Li Mu Bai into what he should be: noble, wise but weary. Chow Yun Fat conveys the unspoken feelings of Li Mu Bai in a way I can't imagine anyone else can. But he's known for his acting, Michelle Yeoh was known for her fighting skills. Here in CTHD, she proves herself as an excellent dramatic actress. The secrete longing for Li and the confusion of Li's true feelings were clearly conveyed by her eyes. The scenes between them are heartbreaking. Zhang Zi Yi is a true discovery! What a wonderful talent to steal scenes after scenes from the veterans around her. She ran from looking innocent, haughty, feisty to loving and distraught. She made the complex Jen a real flesh and blood believable human being. Chang Chen made a perfectly sexy and charming bandit.
The scenery and the photography was beyond belief. The majestic landscapes of China match my imagination when I read all the beautiful Chinese poems of the Tang and Sung dynasties. No wonder those poets could come up with those masterpieces. They sure had the best inspiration. Peter Pau not only captured the landscapes and the settings, he also managed to capture the fast-as-lightening action wonderfully. The shot of Jen gliding over water just lodged in my mind. The soundtrack is also excellent. Tan Dun used different instruments to match the different locales. He mixed in Central Asian music in the desert sequence and Chinese flute in the Southern China scenes. Yo-yo Ma's cello in the main theme makes me want to weep everytime I hear it.
The storytelling was also done expertly. As a romantic-at-heart, I love the desert romance between Jen and Lo. It's one of the most charming and believable love stories that I can remember. Most people gave credit of the fighting to Yuen Wo Ping. I'd give kudos to Ang Lee. I've seen Yuen's martial art films before, but they're never done in such an imaginative and artistic way. The artistic vision has to come from Ang Lee.
To sum it up, three cheers for Ang Lee! You not only fulfilled your childhood dream, you fulfilled mine too. It's such a pleasure to finally see a wuxia novel be done right. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
I just saw this film today. I was totally captivated... when it was all over, and the credits began to run, it took me a couple of seconds to realize where I was. I didn't want to get out of my seat. And once I got out of the theatre, I couldn't even talk about it for an hour or so. I kept running the details over and over in my head. It's rare that a film has such an impact on me. The cinematography was stunning. The special effects were beautifully done. The characters' moves were effortless. The acting was wonderful. I really think that Michelle Yeoh should have been nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress. I thought that the effects and storyline complimented each other brilliantly. There were so many different layers to the plot. There were many things that couldn't be explained with dialogue that were expressed in the characters' faces. This film had lighthearted moments, heartwrenching moments, romantic interludes, inspirational sentiments, wonderful plot twists, superb acting, beautifully done fight scenes, never before seen special effects...it had it all. Some scenes may have been a little over the top, but it's *fantasy*... and yet, after a few brief moments, it somehow became completely believable. That's how much this film draws you in. This is a one of a kind film; there is just no comparing it to any other. It transports you to another place and time. I highly recommend it.
I gave a wry chuckle when the opening credits pronounced Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon a Sony Cinema Classic in the year of its release. However, I too would not have hesitated to brand this film such. It is a cinematic masterpiece that left me in silent reverie at its conclusion.
The film's story unfolds amidst the ancient temples, bamboo forests and painted deserts of nineteenth century China: a sensual, mystical landscape that, at our first high-angle glimpse of Peking takes on a dizzying scale. This world is inhabited by the Wudan, spectral warriors from legend who effortlessly leap between rooftop and bamboo tree, a device which elevates them to a plane divorced from our parochial middle-class values without the loss of their intense humanity. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is an ode to the human spirit that transcends genre; it is at once fantasy, romance, historical epic and thriller, enriched by a subtle humour.
At the film's heart are four compelling performances. Ziyi Zhang, is enchanting as the wilful Jen Yu, daughter of a government official, who aspires to the code of the Wudan. Her destiny is entwined with those of Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) and Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), disciples of this enigmatic clan, and of the desert bandit Lo (Chen Chang) by the theft of an arcane sword, Mu Bai's quest for revenge and the fulfilment of a powerful yet unrequited love
Chow Yun Fat possesses an hypnotic screen presence in his portrayal of this regal master, who displays an unparalleled heroism untainted by western cliché as the film travels inexorably toward his shuddering death-blow. This resonates long after the credit sequence has run and you've marvelled at how few stunt artists were engaged to actualize the film's thrillingly beautiful fight sequences. These are not the idle distractions aimed at a boyish mind we find in other martial arts films but rather a transcendent form of dance. Their exquisitely honed choreography rivals that of Graham Murphy and Twyla Tharp.
Star of these sequences is the four hundred year old Green Destiny sword that exerts a powerful metaphoric presence on the film. It is a sensuous artefact that sings when struck, punctuating Yo-Yo Ma's haunting cello solos, a feature of the immersive soundtrack.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a film of titanic proportions, with all the pageantry of Kundun, minus the ponderous pace, and without a trace of the cloying sentimentalism which infected Titanic's impoverished narrative. Li Mu Bai's final words are a more fervent declaration of truth than any to have graced the screen before.
After all that, I can offer no further commendation except to say that this is the latest greatest film of my now seemingly hollow existence.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is, quite simply, a stunning film and a real
breath of fresh air in a genre that was previously somewhat stagnant.
Kung-fu films were on a very steady decline, with only Jet Li making a valid
effort to change things around. It comes then as a great relief that Ang Lee
decided to do what he did and put an entirely new slant on the genre.
Tacky dubbed dialogue is out of the window and we're back to the films original Chinese language subtitled into English. This adds a lot more to one of the films main themes, culture. While we as the Kung-fu loving public have grown used to storylines generally involving the hero's lost mother/brother/pet goldfish, Crouching Tiger... eschews all of these stereotypes and sets about creating a really authentic atmosphere.
I won't bother rehashing the story because if you haven't seen the film yet I want you to go in with as little knowledge as possible. If you don't know what to expect, I can't recommend Crouching Tiger... more highly. Lee's directorial style is simply a joy to behold, and every minute detail is treated with a respect most directors simply don't have. Now, the part we've all been waiting for. I know what you're thinking, "It's all very well having a great story but what good is it if they're all going to mince about like fairies?"
Well, I'm pleased to tell you that these guys kick more ass than you've EVER seen before. The fight sequences are stunningly choreographed and the 'flying' looks spectacular. While a big thing has been made of Chow Yun Fat and Zhang Ziyi's treetop battle, the one for me is between Michelle Yeoh's Shu Lien and Ziyi's Jen. Both instances, both in the courtyard and the dojo are, quite frankly, the most astounding displays of martial arts I have EVER been lucky enough to witness. While Bruce Lee can certainly do the real thing, and he is without doubt the original and best, Wo Ping's sequencing of the fight scenes is truly revolutionary.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is one of the best films I have ever seen and I would recommend anyone, whether or not they are interested in Kung-fu movies.
The show was fantastic. It is one of the best, if not the best Chinese
swashbuckling show. With that simple and to the point assertion let me
continue with my review.
The kungfu choreography was marvelous and beautiful. With Yuen Wo Ping as the martial arts director, things can hardly get better. I dare say that the kungfu movement in this show was definitely more varied and graceful than his other works, for example, the Matrix which obtained such raving reviews. Even when compared to his other Mandarin titles, like Last Hero in China, this show stands out. In other movies, you get the feeling they're merely fighting it out, but for this one, there is a genuine fluidity. The aesthetic and artistic direction is definitely top-notch. Although there were times things were a little overdone, that will not compromise the overall quality of the show.
The acting was excellent as well. Chow Yun Fatt and Michelle Yeoh were fine as the constipated middle-aged `we're a little old but we still love each other' couple. The scene at the end was absolutely heart breaking; so subtle and yet absolute racking. As for Zhang Ziyi, she was perfect as the slightly brat-ish aristocratic daughter of a governor, who's yet to find what she really wants in life. From blithe to confusion to angst to despondence and then despair, there is a character journey which she succeeds in portraying. And all this while, yes, she somehow manages to stay likeable. Its pretty amazing if you consider she's still in acting school.
This must be one of the better adaptation of Chinese `Giang Hu' Novels. Usually, they're so badly adapted they result in one hodgepodge mess of a conglomerated movie. This one has an exceptional script which is easy to follow and not merely as inane as having only good versus evil. Here, our protagonists have their own personal battles to overcome and their own personal devils to defeat. And if any of these sound boring, it isn't! It's one of the fastest 2.5 hr movie I've watched. The ending is also one of the classiest and most beautiful I've seen.
This show is cinematic poetry. The music score compliments the Kungfu sequences well; the lyrical dialogues emerge charmingly. Everything fits in so darn perfectly. You have to concede to the fact that Ang Lee is undoubtedly a visionary and amazing director.
Even if you don't give a damn about any of the above, this show is a visual treat. Go watch the show for the scenery, the martial arts, the actors. The bottom line is to go and watch it because you will rarely find a better one. 9/10.
Yes yes, i'm a groupie and if u watch it, i think u'll become one. :DD
Less than half an hour into the viewing of this masterpiece I knew this
would become one of my favorite films - of all time. Only in my wildest
dreams (quite literally, this movie has touched me on a personal level)
I visualized such fantastic and precise choreography, so captivating that
take your eyes away during the intense confrontations is to deny yourself
the essence of what makes this film so wonderful.
With an artistic license unprecedented, the action scenes are entirely unbelievable but purely the work of a fabulous imagination. The magical settings and the colorful characters fit well into the plot but you will take away the breath-taking martial arts sequences.
As a film student living in Toronto, I look forward to the Toronto
International Film Festival every year. Last year, the highlight of the
festival for me was American Beauty. This year, it would have to be (so
far) Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon".
Being of Asian descent, I've seen my share of wu xia genre movies to last me a life time. However, most of them are so centred on the fighting, that they forget the rest of the elements that are involed. The movie turns into one long scripted fighting scene with maybe a slight hint of story. Crouching Tiger, on the other hand realizes these issues, and builds these oh-so entertaining action sequences into an epic with typical asian themes such as true love and honour.
Being an epic, one would expect the usual long takes and establishing shots, and boy does it ever look beautiful. Traversing through a myriad of regions spanning the lengh of China (from the deserts to bamboo forests, to mountains high in the clouds), the film soley based on its asthetic properties is nothing short of stunning. The lighting of different landscapes and the exquisitly designed costumes all radiate with stunning colour. And then there's the cinemetography. Wow! The backdrops, establishing shots look absolutely marvelous. If your jaw dropped when you saw Rome and its coliseum in Gladiator, wait until you see ancient Beijing recreated on the screen!
Okay, so it's a good looking movie. What about the story? The complexity of the plot is rather sparse, probably reminiscent of epics such as Braveheart or Gladiator, which is by no means a bad thing. Although both Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeo did have major parts, this movie belongs mostly to Zhang Ziyi who IMHO did an amazing job playing a very complex role (one which required her to represent nobily as a princess, naivness, as well as show inner strength). Mainly concentrating on her unwillingness to give in to the ideals of an arranged marriage, the decently written script adds a story of an old warrior trying to retire and a 300+ year old sword.
All in all, this film blends story, well choreographed action, and a stylistic eye to create a mythilogical piece that not only represents the wu xia genre justly by doing it well, but also contributes to raising the quality of filmmaking usually applied in the making of a similar type of film.
Chinese martial arts films had found a market in the West during the
Kung Fu boom initiated by Bruce Lee in the early 1970s
Tiger, Hidden Dragon" represents a new departure, an attempt to produce
a sophisticated, big-budget Chinese film that would appeal both to
mainstream Western audiences and to audiences in the Far East
their quest to find the stolen sword of Green Destiny, warriors Yu Shu
Lien (Michelle Yeoh) and Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) explore themes of
love, loyalty and sacrifice
Ang Lee was an astute choice as director The location shooting was on the Chinese mainland and the actors came from Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as China Instead of the Shaolin school of martial arts favored by Bruce Lee, Ang Lee opted for the more spiritual form of Wudan; brute force is replace by scenes of balletic grace as opponents climb up walls or flit through tree-tops
The widespread success of the film is a firm indication that Chinese culture is making its mark
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