Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Directed By Ang Lee
Staring Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Zi-Yi, Chang Chen
It’s the perfect foreign film. Legible subtitles and a language you weren’t offered in high school. Beautiful cinematography. Lyrical fights dripping with symbolism. No one gets the girl. The hero almost gets saved, but dies while meditating. And no clear clue as to why anyone is doing anything. It’s two solid hours of bladder-busting, high-toned art.
Master Li Mu Bai (Chow) drops out of Wudan martial art school and returns to Shu Lien (Yeoh), his main squeeze of how many years. It’s one of those relations where everyone knows they ought to hook up, but it takes that first gray hair to convince him to hold her hand. God, it’s touching. Well, Shu knows a bit of Wudan herself, and when the evil Jade Fox drops in with her disciple Jen (Zhang), its anti-gravity chop socky. One of the Wudan tricks is the ability to make Newton’s Second and Third laws take a smoke break – you get to fight while suspended in mid air, like the Power Puff Girls. Had they taken the time to turn on the kliegs for the first 3 fights, it would have been much more impressive. Well, Jade Fox is the secret identity of the plump governess of Governor Wu’s delicate daughter Jen, who secretly grew up the concubine of a really nice Hunnish boy, and she learned Wudan by reading the manual that Jade ripped from the Wudan Dojo. Since little Jen could read and governess couldn’t, she became the better fighter but never learned the key discipline of martial arts – never have sex before a fight, it drains your Chi or Feng Shui or Ghee. I never learned either.
This is a film that will be lost on video, as you can’t imagine what a beautiful job they did of filming the Chinese back country. The fights are a scream, and not a thought passes as to why the fighters don’t need to touch earth, although we go into quite a bit of detail above the sword Green Destiny and why Jen can only win if she has it, while Li and Shu can whup her with bamboo chopsticks. There’s quite a lot about having a master/disciple relation, about completing training and doing all sorts of miserable stuff to cleanse your soul, and not having sex unless you’re pretty sure you won’t enjoy it. I say see the movie AND have sex first. After all, it’s your ticket.