one of Shadows' all-time best films Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon


Duck! Yu Shu Lien (Yeoh) takes on the young upstart Jen (Zhang)....
dir Ang Lee
scr James Schamus, Wang Hui Ling, Tsai Kuo Jung
with Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Cheng Pei Pei, Lung Sihung, Li Fa Zeng, Gao Xian, Hai Yan, Wang Deming, Huang Su Ying, Yang Rui
Sony 00/China 5 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
After exploring ye olde England (Sense and Sensibility), '70s New England (The Ice Storm) and the American Civil War (Ride with the Devil), Ang Lee returns home to China and offers us yet another finely detailed, emotionally powerful, visually gripping tale. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is simply so gorgeous that you hate for it to end.

The film's title refers to unseen heroes and legends, and the story's dual romantic plotlines weave and entwine in 19th century China, an era of profound societal change. Renowned hero Li Mu Bai (Chow) has decided to settle down, giving his precious sword, The Green Destiny, to his patron Sir Te (Lung). But before he can spark a romance with his longtime colleague Yu Shu Lien (Yeoh), the sword is stolen. The thief turns out to be a young woman (Zhang) with all kinds of secrets, including an alliance with Li Mu Bai's arch enemy Jade Fox (Cheng), an aristocratic arranged marriage and a renegade lover (Chang).

But this isn't a cosy romantic drama. It's also a fiercely energetic action film (choreographed by The Matrix's Yuen Wo Ping) that sends its characters spinning, floating and battling over Beijing's roofs, across the desert sands and into mountain gorges, icy rivers and wispy treetops. It's unlike anything we've seen before, and the effect is magical and exhilarating. The pacey story keeps us thoroughly involved as it examines its complex characters and themes. Who is the master and who is the student? How will both men and women reconcile their roles as warriors? Who has a true heart? And thanks to Lee's assured direction and the fine cast's detailed performances, the film works both as a grand costume drama and as an intimate character study--moving, thrilling, insightful.

[12--violence, themes] 17.Oct.00
US release 8.Dec.00; UK release 5.Jan.01

in another time...

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"Incredible movie. Very hard to describe to others. I don't think I would really attempt to, except to just say, "Go see this movie!" The subtitles definitely shouldn't keep anyone from seeing the movie. They are very easy to follow, and after a while you forget you are even reading them. Great acting (especially Zhang Ziyi), unparalled action and a fantastic musical score make this a must-see. I'm ready to see it again." --Becca Veteto, Colorado Springs 24.Jan.01.

"I went to see the movie today and I think it's a must-see movie I was spellbound during the entire movie. Very good - 9 out of 10." --Suzanne April, net 23.Jan.01.

"Having seen this movie, I found myself pondering silently for several minutes about what I had just seen. It was so beautifully done - the cinematography, the acting, the fighting, the new genre ... you just cannot absorb all of its beauty first time round. It makes such a big impact - you just have to see it, if not the romance, for the fighting, if not the fighting, for the fantasy, and if not that, just for the fact that you have seen one of the greatest films ever, in terms of what it contains. This is a fantastic movie - you can feel the culture. The soundtrack is brilliant; how it didn't win best cinematography at the Baftas will remain one of the world's biggest mysteries. Zhang Ziyi does brilliantly, and Michelle Yeoh should get much more credit for her acting - all the subtle expressions count for everything, and only at the end does she show her capabilities. I think she would have got a real chance of best actress if there were more opportunities to show outward emotion, and if the film industry did not have cutltural barriers that they cannot break down. Chang Chen is funny and lovely, and Chow Yun Fat does a great job of filling the status of Wudan warrior and hero. See it or else!" --K Law, England 26.Feb.01.

"I had to see this movie, because I love movies, and it is what everyone is talking about. I think so much has been said about it by now, all I can say is go see it on the big screen - the scenery is breathtaking, and smaller screens simply won't do it justice. The storyline also centers around two love stories, and it breaks your heart to see how they followed their obligations, not their hearts. One is a forbidden love, the other unrequited. I felt the actors really made you FEEL their emotions, and especially since it was done in subtitles, which my son moaned about at first saying, 'Am I going to have to read these during the whole show?' Then he forgot about them as he got wrapped up in the story. I know this will be a timeless movie, as two generations sat side by side, my son and I, and both got involved in the movie - by the end you don't even notice the subtitles, you are watching the characters, the action, the scenery, and it all just fits together so well. This movie, I feel, is destined to become one of the classics; it is so well done, and anyone over the age of 15 can identify with at least one of the romances. I guess I feel that words just really can't do it justice - it is a great movie, see it on the big screen while you can - go see it twice!" --Laurie T, Minneapolis 4.Mar.01.

"Who would have thought it would be possible to make a film like this? I got the impression I was watching a 'real, life' magical kingdom. Never has a film taken my breath away like this ... the scenery - especially the Wunan Mountain - made me gasp at the scale, and the aching beauty of it. In fact, the entire film was achingly beautiful, with characterisation that totally transcended any perceived language barrier to speak straight to the heart of the audience. I would never have thought that a film in Chinese, with martial arts at its centre would grip me like this film did. It deserves to walk away with every Oscar it can muster." --Jo Caswell, West Sussex 13.Mar.01

"We both enjoyed it quite a bit and would even like to see it again. I like movies that are creative enough to allow for several layers of interpretation." --Kathy Mulcahey, Los Angeles 27.Mar.01

"I have just seen this film for the second time and still cannot quite put my finger on the meaning of it - it is uncategorisable in terms of genre and impossible to explain to those who haven't seen it. To the person who was sniggering during the scene in the trees (my favourite) - perhaps you should open your mind a bit. This is not a film solely about fighting or love or indeed realism, but about the search for meaning and contentment and control. It is the sort of film that makes you believe you can do anything you want - as for me, I'm off to Wudan Mountain to find Lo." --LP, England 2.Jun.01

"Belying the chopsocky parallels that will be drawn by detractors, this Ang Lee mythical-adventure is confident and accomplished enough to allow action and sentiment to be believably connected. This means for the first time in a Kung Fu movie the viewer can properly relate to the violence. Newcomer Zhang Ziyi is a powerful and strikingly versatile performer as the young aristo Jen, who is fighting an arranged marriage for true love. Jen is a compelling sight emoting courage in battle and longing in love, and the scenes benefit from her presence. Her fight sequences with Li Mu Bai (Chow) and Shen Lien (Yeoh) are genuinely breathtaking and never become tiresome or familiar. Since the expression of emotion is so concise and economical when battle begins the motication is clear. Allegiances as in life can change unexpectedly and these are appropriated through different combinations of combatants. As epic tales go CTHD adopts a more simplistic and grounded story only ocassionally hinting at the deeper backstory conflicts that bubble under the surface. Lee has managed to transpose the Chinese folklore of his childhood into the blockbuster arena of Bruckheimer and Bay without losing the message or cultural nuances. Only the extent to which these themes are followed is curtailed enabling Eastern class-customs and male-female roles to be shown yet not dwelt upon. With the popularity of this segment of a trilogy it seems certain that the investigation will delve deeper next time." --John Gibson, UK 1.Jul.01

"Quite simple--watch it if not for the plot then purely for the action." --P.Bev, net 1.Jul.01

"Brill film although I thought it was a bit farfetched with all the flying stuff." --Adam, net 24.Jun.01

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall