Friday, May 29, 2009

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000)

Ziyi Zhang, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
I first saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in the campus theater at Trinity. It was the first time I'd seen an action movie like it, and it blew me away. It combined not only fast-paced martial arts and weaponry, but also breathtaking vistas of China. Though other movies that have been made sense have added to the cinematic beauty of martial arts films, this was my first experience and retains a soft spot in my heart.

In essence, the plot is driven by the characters inability to have what they desire. Yun-Fat Chow plays a warrior who attempts to give up violence to achieve enlightenment only to be drawn back into the world by his desire to avenge his master;s death, and a love for Michelle Yeoh that they are honor bound to deny. At the same time, Ziyi Zang plays the daughter of a governor who is restricted by her role in society from achieving the great adventurous life of a warrior that she not only desires but is highly capable of leading. She is also prevented from being with her great love, a noble thief, Chen Chang.

Michelle Yeoh, Yun-Fat Chow, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
With those restrictions in place, the story of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon unfolds beautifully with some amazing scenes of fast-paced martial arts. The drama of the story is excellently matched with the action, as director Ang Lee seems to have almost an innate understanding of making beautiful cinematic gems. Of course, the action was so fast paced that it made it difficult to make any screen caps of the action scenes. Instead I was forced to use largely stationary shots. Unfortunately these shots don't represent how awesomely powerful the women in the film were, with most on par to their male counterparts. In fact, Yun-Fat is the only martial artist capable of defeating any of the women.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon changed the way I viewed martial arts films. It became less about simply awesome action, though obviously this remained a concern, but also about the cinematics of the film. If I had never seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon I probably would not have seen other great films like Hero or House of Flying Daggers both of which took the impressive cinematic visuals to new heights. In a lot of ways, this movie is like The Matrix there are those movies which came before, and those movies which came after and which will always be judged against it.

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