Crouching Tiger,Hidden Dragon(released July/00),stars,among others Chow Yun-Fat as Li Mu Bai,Michelle Yeoh as Yu Shu Lien,Zhang Ziyi as Jiao Long,Chang Chen as Luo Xiaohu,Cheng Pei-pei as Jade Fox and Sihung Lung as Sir Te.This is the English dubbed version of the film that won four Academy Awards in 2001,and deservedly so.It is a highly artistic,stylized fantasy film and a visual feast,with gorgeous cinematography and intricate choreography.It runs the gamut of emotions throughout from pathos to humour and back again.I thought this year,being director Ang Lee's year once more,with Life of Pi and its bevy of awards,this would be a good time to revisit one of his classic films.
The story finds Yun-Fat as a warrior who has been trying to avenge his masters death for the past 10 years,and has failed to find the culprit.He wants to turn in his famed Green Dragon sword to his friend in Beijing,Sir Te,and start to concentrate on that that he has neglected for far too long;his love for Yeoh.It is a love that has for the most part been an unspoken one.But now and throughout the film,the two start to work together and reconnect.For once the sword is in Beijing it gets taken by a local thief.While Fat makes his way on his own to Beijing to visit his friend who was given the sword,his lady love Yeoh tries,in the meantime,to get the sword back.She in fact has brief skirmishes with the thief which is traced back to the Governor's mansion.She tries to walk a fine line to get the sword back without disgracing the house of the Governor.
One night a policeman and his daughter who have tracked the thief finally confront her.However she has help.We learn the thief is the Governor's daughter and her aide is the thief's governess who is also the killer of Fat's master 10 years before,called the Jade Fox.As the fight starts going the way of the thief and the Jade Fox,Fat arrives to upset the balance,and sends them both running.
In the night a Mongol arrives in the thief's bedroom and they embrace.A back story unrolls where we see that these two have a passionate history which she has tried to forget being a woman of position.She asks him to leave and he does.The next day during the wedding procession the Mongol interrupts things and asks that she come away with him.Fat intercedes and squirrels him away in a far off monastery,until the time is right.
The following day the thief leaves her husband and takes the sword.She is confronted by Yeoh and both have an intense fight,but she does not relinquish the sword.Fat again intercedes and pursues her to the top of a bamboo forest.Fat wins the day and throws the sword into the bottom of a waterfall.She pursues it and if it wasn't for the Jade Fox,would have died trying to get it.The Fox takes her to a cave and drugs her.She prepares poisonous darts then hides from those who will inevitably come for her.Yeoh,then Fat show up.Fat tries to detoxify the girl,then the Fox attacks.The Fox ultimately gets hers but she also has pierced the neck of Fat with a deadly dart.There is but one antidote and the girl knows how to prepare it.As she goes away to make it,Yeoh holds the dying Fat in her arms.All the lost chances and the suppressed feelings come out in her,and Fat dies professing his love for Yeoh.When the girl comes back,realizing she is too late,Yeoh tells her to go to the monastery to find her love.She makes it,spends a passionate night with him then next day throws herself off the top of the mountain.
All I can add to my opening comments is the solid acting throughout.The story of the never realized passion between Fat and Yeoh,coupled with the same theme between the thief and the Mongol,amazing.Scenes such as the fight sequence among the bamboo trees or people gliding over roof tops,simply take ones breath away.There is one thing I have always found endearing in Chinese cinema and that is the inclusion of humour.Rarely,no matter how serious a film may be,there seems to be always some type of humour injected somewhere.It is the yin and yang,the serious and the humourous;ancient Chinese philosophy.
Technically speaking the film is in its w/s a/r of 2:35:1.There are some scenes with some graininess but generally it is clear and crisp.A good remastering would take care of this.Extras include a featurette,an interview,the trailers and commentary.This is the English dubbed version.While good I do prefer the Chinese version,with subtitles.In fact I usually do prefer to hear the original versions as a rule.
All in all a simply beautiful movie from start to finish.Director Ang Lee cleaned up at the OSCARS in 2001 with this entry as he did this year with Life of Pi.The film was obviously directed by a superb craftsman.Highly recommended.