Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) Poster

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My Dream Came True
jasmine_kung31 December 2000
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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Magical Romance...
Larry-1716 January 2001
There's a telling moment near the beginning of Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

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 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, 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 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.
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Beware of cheap imitations
j30bell22 December 2004
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
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Extremely Captivating Film
gisele2215 February 2001
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 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.
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A wondrous mythology, a cinematic masterpiece.
The Mogul30 December 2000
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.
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The most beautiful film ever made.
therickster-229 March 2001
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.
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Breathtakingly Beautiful...
Drakkhen10 September 2000
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.
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Truly Exceptional
kirsten tan9 July 2000
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
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A Vivid Dream And An Action Fantasy
columbia245321 March 2001
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) have I visualized such fantastic and precise choreography, so captivating that to 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.
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An Ambitious Attempt, Not Consummated
tedg17 January 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Ang Lee is one of two best mainstream directors working today who has deliberately worked in different styles, genres, artistic philosophies even. (The other is Ridley Scott.) Here he tries to inject art and majesty in a common vehicle. To remain true to the vehicle, he must use a thin story (though with numerous threads) and an understated acting style. I think this understated focus on faces helps make the subtitles more palatable than they would be otherwise. They are also larger and higher than normal, so one's eye doesn't have to jump so much from face to word. There's no question that this film was conceived with the western reading eye in mind.

Lee pumps up the skeleton well enough with grand vistas and wonderful sets. The vision is surreal, which befits the mythical drama. In this and several other ways, he greatly surpasses the `Star Wars' feel. I must say that the final cave/warehouse was too theatrical -- it just didn't fit the rest. Some of the mattes are annoyingly fakey. The bambootop fight was ungraceful. But those are relative nits.

What I wanted in this film was a whole new level in choreographing the CAMERA during fight scenes. I know this is a hot topic among directors just now, and think he is quite up to the challenge. He has already shown mastery of the inside, emotional camera, and the notion of bringing this to dance excited me. He teases with some spectacular camera movement, but it is always in a conventional frame. Guess he wanted to sell a lot of tickets instead of reinvent the medium.

What I mean: with the fights, you have several characters, the two (or howevermany) fighters, the swords, the viewer and the camera. In a good film, some of these will merge. In a masterful production that merger will shift so that the camera is the sword, the viewer, then the fighter. (Here, the green sword IS a central fighter.) But add to that the complication of the idiom: each fighter and weapon is actually just a token for the master. Each fight is a battle between invisible characters, whose perspective the camera can also take.

Lee plays these fights too safe, and it really annoys because he shows us ever so fleetingly what he can do. Sometimes, the camera is the sword, sometimes the master, but in teasing glimpses only. He's concerned with making sense, and that requires sticking to convention. Maybe as he gets older, he'll do this again, but with more multidimensional vision, more enlightenment, less concern for the general viewer.

But check out the fight scores. This drummer knows the dimensions we're talking about, because he follows Lee's camera when it leaves the body. Cool.

This film also has the sexiest literary scene I've ever experienced. (And that counts the lush "Pillow Book.") It will be worth owning for that 15 seconds alone. Watch Jen's calligraphy, obviously done by a master. You won't ever forget it now that I've pointed it out. Watch the subtle camera movement. The whole of `Quills' in a few seconds! That reading eye again.
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A martial arts movie filmed with great visual brio…
Nazi_Fighter_David9 December 2008
Chinese martial arts films had found a market in the West during the Kung Fu boom initiated by Bruce Lee in the early 1970s… But "Crouching 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… Through 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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2000: Year Of The Cat Fight
slokes9 January 2006
"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is one of two Ang Lee movies I've seen. One, "The Ice Storm," takes place a couple of towns up the parkway from where I live. This one is set half a world away, yet watching it makes China feel closer than New Canaan. I have a feeling a lot of people get a similar sensation.

Master Li Mu Bai (Yun-Fat Chow) is tired of kicking butt; he only wants peace, and perhaps a new start in life with the woman he loves but keeps a wary, correct distance from, Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh). Matters are complicated with the theft of a great sword, the Green Destiny. Lien's investigation quickly centers on a bored rich girl named Jen (Zihi Zhang), who hides her skills under embroidered gowns but is ultimately as much about rebellion as Lien is about conformity. When the two women square off, sparks will fly, literally. Yet Jen has goodness in her. Can Bai and Lien save her from becoming "a poison dragon" in the service of her murderous master, the Jade Fox?

I never really got into martial-arts movies, probably because of the culture gap but also because until recently they didn't get much respect from critics, at least here in the West. That was already beginning to change by 2000, but "Crouching Tiger" was the clear tipping point, Oscar-nominated for Best Picture and praised to the skies for its beautiful cinematography and gravity-defying fight scenes.

Those fight scenes are amazing, each in a different way. One resembles a dazzling lyrical ballet on a lush bamboo forest; another is a grand goofy bar fight which is played for laughs. The best fight is between Jen and Lien, a cinematic centerpiece every bit as great as Rick and Ilsa's last scene on the tarmac in "Casablanca." No doubt it got PC points among Western critics for featuring two women in battle, it also is a nice way of bringing out the central tension in the film's deceptively simple narrative, which is that between cultural obligation as embodied by Lien, and individual happiness as sought by Jen.

Earlier in the film, Jen lays her cards out on the table for Lien, with whom she hopes to be friends: "I'm getting married, but I'm not happy about it," Jen says. Lien's wooden reply: "I've heard. Congratulations." Much later on, after Jen has run out on her wedding and stolen the Green Destiny, Bai talks about taking Jen as his student, to save her from being corrupted by evil. "What if her husband objects?" asks Lien. Bai gives her a look which says it all: What planet did you beam down from? She's Patty Hearst now, and about to become Darth Vader. Her husband's wishes are the least of our concerns.

Not to Lien. While oddly liberated by her single status (which in turn is due to her self-restrictive attitude about being in mourning for a long-dead fiancé), Lien is the cultural touchstone, or rather millstone, of this drama. She and Bai are clearly meant for each other, but she resists. Oddly, while this puts her at loggerheads with audience expectations, Lien is also the movie's most empathetic character, more so than the remote Bai or spoiled Jen. As played by Yeoh, Lien offers us a passionate center who both embodies the code she and Bai live by, and betrays that code's limitations.

Getting all that on screen is a great triumph for Yeoh, and one I needed to watch the film more than once to pick up on. She's so remarkable in her fight scenes and running up and down walls (yes, I know wires were involved, but even so the athletic skill necessary to sell such action is impossible to imagine) people miss the consummate acting of her performance, the aware inertness of her eyes, the expression of sad longing that she allows to poke through her bland facade. Chow is great, too, and Zhang beyond that in a star-making performance of beauty and rage, yet I wouldn't feel the warmth I do for this film without Yeoh inhabiting so much of it, not just body but soul.

The DVD which I found for under $10 has not only both the dubbed and subtitled versions of the films (which are radically different, and both worth viewing as they bring out different aspects of this deep film) but a funny commentary track by director Lee and co-writer James Schamus, which is remarkable in and of itself for its tone. You'd think they were Joel and Crow having at a Roger Corman flick on "Mystery Science Theater 3000" for all the potshots they take at their masterpiece. I guess you can be humble when you make a film as good as this, easily the best film of 2000 and a cinematic milestone that will inspire generations yet unborn, whatever future film technologies dish out.
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Hulk Smash!
tieman648 May 2012
Fans burnt by George Lucas' "Phantom Menace" found solace in Ang Lee's cosily straightforward "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon". The film was greeted with a shrug in China (it was a flop), a country desensitised to wuxia tales, but Westerners loved it. Probably because "Tiger" is basically "Star Wars", with its own assortment of bounty-hunters, Jedis, Sith Lords, princesses, rogues, warriors, villains, henchmen, Yodas, fairy tale romances, teachers, masters, apprentices, chosen ones and much vague talk of destiny, fate and "light" and "dark" sides. When he's not indulging in super choreographed action sequences, Lee's aesthetic is also very Lucasy, which is to say, very John Ford, very David Lean, very Kurosawa, with clean lines, big open spaces, and simple but careful shot selection. What's strange is the film's budget. The film looks like it has the budget of one of those big, state backed Chinese or Stalinist productions, but "Crouching" was made for about fifteen million dollars. Lee gets a lot of mileage out of his budget.

Martial arts fans abhor "Tiger". It's too geared to western tastes, too watered down, and China's been churning out similar wuxia for decades. Why should this one get all the credit? But Lee does put his own spin on the material. His film is more sensual, poetic, graceful, romantic, has a mysterious beauty, and is more delicate than is typical of the genre. His female characters are also given a bigger role than is customary and his action at times seems more like expressive dance.

Repression, restrictions, strict moral codes and self-control are an obsession with Lee. With "Hulk" we had a scientist who struggles to curb his anger, his "Taking Woodstock", "Wedding Banquet" and "Brokeback Mountain" revolved around characters repressing their homosexuality, while "Sense and Sensibility", "Lust Caution", "Ice Storm" and "Woodstock" again all hinged on either repression, free expression or the inhibiting of desire. In "Crouching's" case – the title itself refers to "one who has hidden, suppressed talents" - we have a stifled three-way love between characters called Mu Bai, Shu Lien and Jen Yu, all of whom are prohibited from desire by strict moral/social codes, feudal customs and warrior traditions.

The rejection of these codes is perhaps why the film was shunned by China (and is so popular with western women). Chinese mythology, Taoist philosophy and the hokey "mysticism" of Asian martian arts films (akin to "Star Wars'" "The Force"), all stress an esoteric mode of detachment, a form of denial characteristic of Eastern thought in which the world is seen to be illusory and detached cogitation is seen to be the path to enlightenment. Lee, in contrast, is trading in a more genteel, Western sensibility; a kind of romantic humanism where one is called to ditch Eastern stoicism and embrace the "reality" and "meaning" of human attachments in this life. This tug-of-war is epitomised by a trio of conversations located in each of the film's three acts. In the first, characters called Mu Bai and Shu Lien, who we learn have long had feelings for each another but have denied these feelings to pursue the demands of a Wudan warrior lifestyle, discuss the fact that Mu Bai, when meditating, reaches not "the bliss of enlightenment" but "a place of endless sorrow". For Mu Bai, passions cannot be extinguished and only serve to increase the pull of desire. Mu Bai's conflict – the way clinging to personal affection is contrary to his Wudan ways of detachment – can be found even in Lucas' "Star Wars" prequels, only there Lucas has some monastic ninja kid literally moan about the way his calling prevents him from losing his virginity ("Me want make sexy time but Yoda say no! Wah Wah Wah!").

The second conversation occurs at the film's midpoint, when Mu Bai and Shu Lien finally touch. "Shu Lien," he recoils, "the things we touch have no permanence. My master would say there is nothing we can hold onto in this world. Only by letting go can we truly possess what is real." Shu Lien then brushes aside his Taoism with direct, naive realism: "Not everything is an illusion. My hand is real."

It's in the third conversation that the film breaks away from your typical martial arts movie mysticism and repudiates Wudan philosophy. Here, Mu Bai is dying and Shu Lien urges him to meditate: "Free yourself of this world. Let your soul rise to eternity. Do not waste your breath on me." "I have already wasted my life," Mu Bai responds. "I would rather be a ghost drifting by your side, as a condemned soul, than enter heaven without you." Contrast this with the countless marital arts movies, or even the "Star Wars" franchise, which end with the ghostly spirits of dead warriors, monks and masters hovering contently over the living. Mu Bai is given no supernatural reprieve, no higher plane of existence. He just dies. The film then ends with the recounting of a mountain legend in which a young woman must paradoxically "float away and never return" if she wishes to "return". The whole film hinges on a similar paradox: acting on a desire one desires not to have. It's the paradox of Buddhism: continually desiring to eliminate desire, whereby satiating desire is impossible and it is ultimately desire which blocks the road to desirelessness. This is contrasted with a more Western hedonism, where the hedonist attempts the cessation of desire by "giving in" to them all.

Beyond all this, the film resembles the works of King Hu, Ozu and Ichikawa, the latter two only insofar as it contrasts straitjacketed older generations, and their societal obligations, with oppositional, younger generations. The film's ending suggests that a character called Jen sacrifices her life/love so that Mu Bai and Shu Lien may finally be together.

8.5/10 – Worth two viewings.
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Crouching Tiger Hidden Ambitions!
thekillerwolf1423 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
First of all i want to say Ang Lee Did a very good job on this one! I watched it yesterday and i was presently surprised. The story is very good, but all the ignorant people would say "This sucks people cant fly!" to them i say IT'S FICTION and that it is. This is not to be taken as a film about reality you could say this is a "fairytale". And a very pleasant to watch Asian fairytale. The image's can actually blow your mind. Because there so artistically filmed , Ang Lee has a very (unapreciated u might say) big talent. The fight scene's are very cool and beautifully brought to the viewer. But it's sad but this film didn't get the appreciation it should have gotten. But Ang Lee did fortunately get the attention he deserved with his blockbuster broke back mountain. So even for viewers who are not interested in the story the images are entertaining enough!
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A great movie that changed my view...
brandonennals17 December 2004
on how I view other movies. This movie was so fresh and exciting that it made me look at the Asian cinema scene a little closer. The story alone is great. It is simple and very different from what I am used to here in the States. Visually it was one of the best movies I have ever scene. From the effects matching the tone of the movie, to the locations and the colors used in those locales. The fight scenes were very cool. I love good fight scenes and I love swords. This movie pulls off both very nicely. Since I have watched this movie, I have watched many other Asian films and I find them refreshing. The movies are more story driven with a heavy emphasis on tones. I might watch this movie this weekend now that I am thinking of it. Really cool movie especially on a rainy night.
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The most over-rated film this year/century?
sam-35415 March 2001
Some pretty skilful cable and camera work has been employed to create some wholly unsatisfying fight scenes, which each seem to resolve absolutely nothing, and unfortunately there is really not much else to this film.

The characters are hovering somewhere between one and two dimensions, their motivations are so blandly stated that its hard to swallow the action that ensues for these paper thin fantasy figurines. Their adventures lack any discernable logic and their personalities are so frigid it is hard to feel any compassion or antipathy for them as they each examine the crossroads at at which they find themselves.

The critics are calling it sublime, exquisite and subtle - I fear I must disagree. It couldn't seem to decide if it was a love story/tragedy, an action/martial arts adventure, or a wispy parable (about the getting of wisdom versus the getting of knowledge). I felt like I was watching "Monkey Magic" on Prozac, or "GI Jane" on magic mushrooms - without a compelling soundtrack, plot or acting, the majority of the movie takes tself far too seriously, presumably to impress the arthouse crowd, with the only enjoyable snippet of the movie, for me, when it briefly lightens up in a bar full of beefy warriors. 1 (awful) out of 10 for me.....
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Not Ang Lee's best.
smarmymark14 June 2001
Please, don't get me wrong. I love Ang Lee. I have not yet seen a film from Lee that I didn't like, and this is no exception. Still, I don't find this the best of those I've seen by far.

Chalk it up to cultural distance if you like, but this film seemed a bit trite to me. The archetypes seemed too basic.

I love Chinese action films, and this wasn't one. This was a drawn out love story with a subtext of action. The uninitiated might believe that this represents Chinese Action well. To them, I'd reccomend the John Wu film, "Hard Boiled."

Meanwhile, the character story was too drawn out. The singular jump to the past was confusing because of its length combined with its singularity.

If I had to guess, I'd say this is a classical Chinese story set to film. This is China's "Braveheart." Therefor, without the cultural investment, we are left somewhat dry.

All this said, the film is universally enjoyable. What it lacks in action, it makes up in emotion, and vice versa. It's an emminently watchable film. It's just not a classic. At least not to my ignorant American eyes.
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Great, but only as comedy
pistol-129 January 2001
Warning: Spoilers
There aren't any spoilers here, because to have spoilers you must have a plot, and there wasn't one.

I sat laughing hysterically seemingly understanding why this is hailed as one of the great films of the year only to be told by my friend that it is not a comedy. That being the case, this is without a doubt the most overrated film of the last 30 years, passing "The Piano".

There is simply nothing about this film that is not awful except the scenery, and scenery does not a great film make (See "Toys" for a perfect example). From the technical side, the editing is very b-movie (eg the cup snatching scene), and just sloppy (you can practically see the wires). The desert scene could be cut in half - they chase, they stop, they chase some more. Why? That's a question you'll be asking yourself throughout this film. But don't expect answers. Characters move from pointless scene to pointless scene for the sake of having combat, and that isn't even very special. Ooooo, they sped up the film - its great if you want Keystone Cops China-style, but as drama - laughable.

And let's get something straight. People cannot fly, or "float" if you prefer, and they can't paralyze someone with one finger. I don't care how common this is in Chinese films, its absurd, and the film deserves to be slammed for it. And this is no slap against China per se - We Americans have our share of absurdities and if we put them in our films we deserve to be slammed for them too.

You'll laugh throughout this film when the filmmaker wanted you to cry. You don't care about the characters because the scenes are so ridiculous. By the time they start flying through the trees like squirrels your eyes are liable to roll right out of your head. It isn't magical, its ridiculous.

A 1/10, for pretty scenery and pretty people. The rest looks like an undergrad film project from a failing student.
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Kung fu at its most poetic and beautiful
MaxBorg8930 January 2006
If you like martial arts flicks, you just have to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It's so incredibly good, it made me fall in love with Asian cinema.

Ang Lee's Oscar-winning magnum opus succeeds where most similar movies failed: to keep the personal, intimate story and the awesome, huge action on the same level, never letting one prevail on the other. The beautifully choreographed duels are exactly as important as the dialogue-heavy intermissions (or maybe the fights are intermissions). Think Lawrence of Arabia, only with small fights in the forest instead of massive combats in the desert.

The locations where the characters fight are a crucial part of the film's greatness: never has a duel looked so beautiful as when two people follow each other jumping from tree to tree, their movements so gracious and the combat itself so elegant and bloodless. It's like The Matrix in terms of visual delight, but more poetic.

The acting is perfect as well: Chow Yun-Fat is excellent in the unusual role of the retired warrior who is reluctantly forced back into action, Michelle Yeoh is of good support as his would-be love interest, and it's no wonder Ziyi Zhang has become one of the most wanted actresses in the world. She's astounding, playing such a layered character so well at such a young age.

Beautiful and tragic, it's something you just have to see. As soon as you possibly can.
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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Plot - Don't bother
bedwards10005 November 2001
The action, acting and realism were about as compelling as a high quality Playstation game but the plot wasn't quite as deep. Really, I usually agree with most whether a movie is good or not but I can't see what anybody gets out of this. It didn't even hold the attention of the kids who love martial arts flicks. The fight sequences were so unrealistic and choreographed that they made a Jackie Chan movie look like a documentary. As for the plot, a love affair that should not be, intermixed with a stolen relic. Oh, that's a new one. I've never seen anything like that before. Well maybe not EXACTLY the same as this movie.
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a true vision of cinema
mendelson771 November 2009
The essence of life flows through water, and the rhythm of love is the thunderous waterfall crashing down into the unknown. And journey is the river that flows to its end, leaving legacy behind, and its story is one of honor, strength, passion, conflict, and depth. And tears of sadness flow endlessly over heroes that fight to the death, and inspiration is the ink that gives dreams hope of freedom. And the power of emotion are the strings pulling our heart, and we are swept away into an overwhelming tale of love, loss, and legend. And tension beats against a thousand drums as the fighting stance is taken, and the beauty of music stirs our soul like a gentle breeze across the desert. And Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, winner of four Academy Awards, is a true vision of cinema.
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Ang Lee's Best Film to Date as of 2006
Syl8 January 2006
First, I don't think it matters that there are subtitles and the language is Chinese. The story is strong and moves along smoothly. The fighting scenes are worth watching alone. The actors are choreographed to dance and fight with you just wanting to see who defeats. The story is also told with great costumes, art direction, and scenery. The stars of this film are Asian actors and actresses who don't get enough work in this business. While the subtitles might throw you off, it's not hard to understand what's going on by studying their actions, movements, and facial expressions. If Ang Lee had the actors talk in English throughout the film, I don't think it would have lost much value to me since I'm not Asian or Chinese or the audience. I believe that this is one of the best foreign language films of the last decade and it was awarded an Oscar for Foreign Language Film. Although I don't think Ang Lee cared about awards in making this film, this film has female characters who are both strong and equal to the male characters in the film. The females sometimes steal the scenes from the men. It's nice to see women portrayed as strong, equals than emotional inferior characters. They are equally adept at the fighting scenes and they give their all to those scenes. When you think of Ang Lee's other films, nothing could really master the beauty and uniqueness of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
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Two master sword fighters duke it out with evil Chinese
soplisist6 February 2002
For years, the Chinese film industry has been putting out the movies that feature martial artists with super natural powers based on bogus accounts of feng shui and Daoism (eg. the ability to jump over tall buildings with a single bound). The plots are always the same. Person with secret power...bad guy tries to steal secret powers, or has some perverted secret powers of her own...yada yada yada. Now, some brilliant Chinese person got the idea to market one of these films over in America and people are falling all over themselves gushing about it since they don't know that it is the same old thing as always. There are interesting and still cinematographically beautiful films about China. "Eat Drink Man Woman" "Raise the Red Lantern" and so many more. Don't waste your time on this persiflage.
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Another "Dippy" Kung Fu Movie
tfar200022 January 2002
I still can't see what everyone else is raving about when it comes to this movie. Yeah, the colors are beautiful, but so are a lot of the Saturday morning cartoons and I wouldn't get up to watch those either. It's almost like you are considered politically incorrect if you don't like this movie. They had to have had the best press agents in the World. It's another badly acted Kung Fu movie with people flying through the air and walking on trees.
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Hanging tiger, ballet dragon
hmsgroop24 March 2001
After watching this movie I felt both puzzled and disappointed. As a matter of fact,being a couch potato I usually admire martial arts films when they are life-like and plausible (e.g. Jackie Chan films, Bruce Lee films and Jet Li). The stunts of that film were very much artificial: characters seem to be dancing, not fighting, and it's very disconcerting to see people perform tricks obviously suspended from thin lines. I believe such awkward glorification of the characters' mastership only does them wrong, as it looks funny and destroys the intended effect. If the whole story is meant to be a fairy tale, then let it have more attributes of such, then flying and water-skimming won't seem so ridiculous. The female parts were much better than that of Chow Yun Fat, at least they were capable of some emotion and he was "too far gone on the way to perfection". The only thing I liked is the jump of Jen in the last moment of the film and the legend about making wishes come true.
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