Thursday, August 20, 2009

#497: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang

It's really too bad this film has been parodied so often, because it really is a great film. I guess that's just what happens to the good ones, though.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon tells the story of warriors Li Mu Bai and Shu Lien. Known to be the bravest and strongest warriors in China, they still aren't courageous enough to express their feelings for each other. When Li Mu Bai's famed 'Green Destiny' sword goes missing, Shu Lien finds herself protecting the young Jen from the authorities - and from herself.

Although a simple story, Ang Lee found ways to make this film into a masterpiece. Each aspect of the film works in unison with the next. As Shu Lien notices, the action sequences are motioned in a similar style as Jen's fluid strokes of calligraphy. Not only is the choreography flawless, but the camerawork seems to have been just as much a part of the choreography as the fighting. And of course, Tan Dun's score is quite an achievement - especially considering he had only two weeks to write and record it.

The only problem with the film is the length. A full two hours, you definitely need to be in the right state of mind to watch this straight through with undivided attention. I also would love to learn Mandarin to understand the script. A friend told me once that the entire script was in an old Mandarin dialect - almost Shakespearean. It would certainly be an improvement to some of the English subtitles provided.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):

  • "Crouching tiger hidden dragon" is a quote from Chinese mythology. It refers to hiding your strength from others; advice which is followed too well by the characters in the film.
  • In Chinese, Lo's name is "Little Tiger", and Jen's name is "Gorgeous Dragon".
  • The film's action choreographer, Woo-ping Yuen, was also responsible for the fighting sequences in The Matrix (1999) and its progeny.
  • The four main actors all spoke Mandarin, but with different accents. Yun-Fat Chow had a Cantonese accent, Michelle Yeoh had a Malaysian/English accent, Ziyi Zhang had a Beijing accent, and Chen Chang had a Taiwanese accent. Because of the difficulty some Chinese-speaking markets had with the voices, some markets actually had a dubbed version (into standard Mandarin) of the soundtrack.
  • The stamped documents shown by Shu Lien to the guards at the city-gate before she enters Beijing shows the date "In the of 43rd year of the reign of (Emperor) Qianlong, the sixth month, the eighth day", which is the year A.D. 1778, somewhere in June or July.

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