In early nineteenth-century China, in the waning years of the Qing dynasty, the renowned swordsman who yearns for enlightenment, Li Mu Bai, decides to give up his legendary Green Destiny sword: the sharp four-hundred-year-old blade of heroes. To mark the end of a blood-stained career, Li entrusts the excellent female warrior, Yu Shu Lien, with the precious weapon to deliver it to Governor Yu; however, once there, an audacious and nimble masked thief manages to steal it. As Shu Lien is hot on the trail of the skilled burglar, unrequited loves; fervent passions; an unconquerable desire for freedom, and bitter loose ends stand in the way. Can Mu Bai shake off his violent past?Written by
Jet Li was originally cast to play Li Mu Bai but turned the part down to appear in Romeo Must Die (2000). The role was next offered to Hong Kong singer/actor Leon Lai, but he also turned it down. See more »
(at around 1h 7 mins) When Jen stabs Lo with the arrow in Lo's cave, blood trickles out from a spot about two inches above the injury. See more »
Master Li is here! Master Li is here!
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The opening title appears in Chinese and English. See more »
The English subtitles on the DVD are translated differently than the original theatrical version. See more »
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 my 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!
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