FILM: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon


This thread is for discussion of the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Film Club members assume that readers of this thread have actually (and recently) seen the film, and will be engaging in detailed discussions of story, character, and theme. If you have not seen the film, we strongly recommend you click ‘back’ now, or you risk having major aspects of the movie ruined for you.

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So. Have enough people seen this to begin a discussion?

[sub]*With credit to Cervaise.[/sub]

I saw it in Pasadena and I loved it. Second best movie of the year, IMO (#1 Requiem for a Dream). And wile the action sequences were majestic, I was most impressed with the dramatic pull of the movie. The relationships of the characters is fascinating and touching. And it also had a lot of humor. Overall, it was practically a perfect movie-going experince.

I saw the previews for it last night before Dracula 2000 (which was barely worth what I paid–and I got in free)

There’s no way in hell you can get me to see CT,HD. All I could glean from the previews were a load of hokey, Sam-Raimi-on-crack wire stunts that made the fight scenes in The Matrix look realistic.

When it comes on HBO, I’m switching to Showtime.

Thanks, blessedwolf. Always good to hear from someone who hasn’t seen the movie under discussion, or even read the OP (though at least you were accurate about how much your contribution was worth, give or take a couple of cents):

Methinks blessedwolf missed the point. The fighting effects were not supposed to be realistic. As a student of western and eastern martial arts, I can say with some authority that there is little crossover between film kung fu and the real thing. However, CTHD was filmed in the tradition of Hong Kong soap opera, in which flying, superhuman skills, and impractical manipulation of physical laws is common currency. In a nation where everyone already knows kung fu, you have to do something a little extra in order to make it truly exciting. Give it a chance, and watch the choreography for what it is. And it is absolutely beautiful.


I came out of the theater feeling that no other film was worthy of being seen for at least a week after CT/HD. My mind boggled at its beauty and power. Blessedwolf, you’re missing out. The action scenes in the Matrix pale in comparison with these.

Easily one of the year’s best films (and for those who poinr out, rightly, that this hasn’t been a strong year: I say here and now that this would have been a top-5 film in 1994). Romance, drama, humor: a blazingly brilliant performance by the girl playing Jen, a great secondary performance in the role of the guard. This was also, bar none, the most effectively good-looking film of the year. Great cinematography of beautiful locations (the Chinese tourism industry must be having champagne for lunch this week)and wonderful martial arts work. My personal favorite of the martial arts scenes wwere the two battles between Jen and Michelle Yeoh’s character: the initial sword theft scene and the weapons battle towards the end of the movie.

Easily a four star movie. My choice for best film of the year.

You know, there’s a whole generation of young’uns that just aren’t even gonna know what a drive-in movie was. But the Lord don’t close a door without He opens a window, so all the people who would be makin’ drive-in movies have decided that showing top-notch cinematic whupass indoors is the next best thing.

Which brings us to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This is a movie that makes you want to cut a hole in the roof of the theater to see it under the stars as God intended. Only it ain’t. It’s kinda like when you take that girl from the trailer park to your junior prom, and you have to get her cleaned up right for the high school auditorium. You gotta pretty it up to show it indoors, but this is a drive-in movie at heart.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is your basic martial-arts revenge flick, with a lot of longing gazes and speeches in between the ass-whuppins. Chow Yun Fat stars as the main revenge guy who’s got this really nifty sword called Green Destiny. Except he goes all sensitive and tries to give the sword away to his girlfriend Michelle Yeoh. And just when you start to think there’s too much plot gettin’ in the way, someone tries to steal the sword and gets in this big fight with her. And Michelle Yeoh winds up chasing the thief across roofs and up and down walls and stuff. And now Chow Yun Fat wants the sword back and he hooks up with this undercover policeman who’s looking for the same guy that Chow Yun Fat wanted revenge on in the first place.

And then there’s a whole lot more plot about this young girl who’s tired of being rich. And she wants to be like Michelle Yeoh except that she turns out to be the thief so she’s already beaten her once when she took the sword. So now everybody’s looking for this girl, and they find her when she beats up a whole room full of guys with names like Barking Crab or something. But then Chow Yun Fat and the girl have this big fight up on the top of some bamboo trees, but he doesn’t kill her so they can fight again later.

No breasts. One quart blood. Two dead bodies. Gratuitous double-bladed sickle in the forehead. Flying poisoned needles. Roof fu. Tree fu. Green Destiny fu. Drive-In Academy Award nomination for Ziyi Zhang as the girl who cares way too much about a comb.

Four stars. Robot Arm says check it out.

I’m not much of a critic, but I’ll give this a go.
I thought the story was absolutely beautiful. It was steady in it’s content and the path of the storyline was easily followed. The acting was done wonderfully, the actors and actresses came off as if it were all for real, I loved that, and I got really into the characters. What seemed typical of Kung Fu flicks was here as well, the interlaced humour and hardcore action, some nostalgia if you will for me.
The costumes and the historical content portrayed seemed absolutely believable to me, and very well done.
The special effects, however, overdone. I understand that some extra effort is needed to create the fantasy in a Kung Fu flick, but I’ve seen plenty of movies with better special effects not so overdone.

Quills, now that was a great movie…

Just saw it. It was a great film, beautiful cinematography, cool action sequences (the scene where they were fighting in the trees was a marvel) - and I’m not a fan of action movies/fight scenes at all. I laughed at first when the over-the-top fight scene started, but then I suspended my disbelief and enjoyed it. However, unlike a lot of you, I found the romantic elements pretty tired and hokey, and the plot was basically by-the-numbers - I don’t foresee any “Best Screenplay” nominations. Still, like I said, I considered it a great film just for pure dumb entertainment and aesthetic value.

First, CD, HT is a masterpiece that transcends the martial arts genre. The depiction of the unconsummated love between Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh is restrained and yet terribly erotic. It reminded me of Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence, when the immense sexual longing of Daniel Day-Lewis’s character is expressed in the gentle stroking of an ungloved hand.

In addition, sneering at the effects shots in CT, HD only reveals your ignorance of Chinese culture. In Taoist tradition, mastery of martial arts at the very highest levels also confers supernatural abilities, like walking on water and floating in trees. Chinese literature and film often feature heroes with supernatural abilities. It’s just part of the cultural landscape.

Ang Lee didn’t have the advantage of using CGI for the effects, so the stunts were done using wires that were later wiped from the print. The actors are really standing on trees and jumping from walls to the ground. No blue screens were used.

For my money, I loooooved the flick. This will be the first movie I review when I get back around to updating my site regularly in the next few days.

One element worth discussing (and that will play a major part in my full-length review): Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is very much in the mold of wuxia, which is a traditional heroic Chinese storytelling form. The “by-the-numbers” comment above sort of captures it, in that wuxia is constructed out of a lot of “off-the-shelf” parts. (This is a simplification, so to any Chinese purists, I apologize in advance.)

To illustrate: You’ve got the “magical <object>,” a weapon or a paintbrush or an actual person; here it’s a sword. You’ve got the “avenge <role model>,” e.g. the bad guy killed the father or brother or teacher or whomever; here it’s the hero’s master. You’ve got mistaken identities, disguises, and so on. Wuxia stories will pull a handful of these standardized elements out of the toolbox, mix and match, and voila, you’ve got a story. (In fact, one of the truly fun aspects of CTHD is just how many of these ingredients have been mixed in; it’s like a feast of plot devices, shovelful after shovelful of wuxia elements, all crammed into one movie.) Naturally, in the U.S., we’ve got several corresponding forms; romance novels and cop stories are the obvious examples.

Most of the time, wuxia stories seem awfully cheesy to a Western (particularly American) audience, because we haven’t grown up with that storytelling tradition. The aforementioned cop story will work fine, even if it’s just as prefab, because we’re used to it. However, if you’ve seen three or four low-budget kung fu movies, it may seem to you like they’re all the same. In a superficial way, they are, as described above, because they’re all built from the same mix-and-match elements: How many times can Yu Wang, as the One-Armed Swordsman, go after a bunch of evil monks who have killed his latest teacher? These stories work much better for a Chinese audience, because although the plots are all superficially structurally similar, and they’re watching for the subtle differences in execution as presented in a familiar framework. Americans and other Westerners, though, tend to dismiss them.

What Ang Lee is doing in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is consciously building a film in the wuxia tradition. The big difference, though, is that he’s giving the prefab elements the emotional weight and resonance that’s usually ignored in the Chinese versions, which work in shorthand. The unrequited love story, the magical super-powerful sword, the noble daughter falling for a thief… all of these would be mentioned quickly and superficially in an ordinary kung-fu movie. But in CTHD, Lee is taking these genre conventions at face value, and really letting the emotions and human realities play out to their fullest, as if for the first time. The effect, to say the least, is remarkable.

Many reviewers are claiming that CTHD may awaken Western interest in the vast library of Eastern martial-arts movies. I don’t think this will happen, simply because, as described above, the majority of these films treat the ingredients of wuxia in shorthand form. Yes, there are a small number of films that do have this kind of resonance, and have achieved cultural crossover (some of Jackie Chan’s early films, for example, or the middle career of Jet Li, notably). But I’m afraid that most of these films, if sought out by Westerners attempting to replicate the experience of CTHD, will fall flat.

I’m curious to hear from other readers who aren’t as familiar with the wuxia tradition, who wouldn’t be as aware of what specifically the movie was doing, to see how well it worked for them.

Joe Bob lives! :slight_smile:

Sorry to chime in and (no doubt) get shot down by all the people who liked this movie, but I did not think much of it.

I’ll start by saying I traditionally do not like foreign films, but I was one of the first people in San Diego to discover the magic of Chow Yun Fat in early John Woo movies like Hard Boiled, The Killer, and A Better Tomorrow. Thus, I was torn with the idea of seeing this movie.

I didn’t so much mind the people taking a little too long in the air during the early parts of the movie (ala The Matrix) but by the middle of the movie, people were flying around like friggin’ Superman and the movie was getting out-of-control stupid.

Yes, the martial arts choreography was good…I’ll give you that, but anything special? I think not. I remember watching kung fu movies that were universally panned in the 1970s which made heavy use of wire work and equally strange and simplistic plots just like CT/HD. And back then, people told me I was an idiot for watching them. Now, suddenly, because Ang Lee churns one out 20 years later, uses many recycled ideas from Wu Ping (who did the special effects for The Matrix), and gets big stars, its a masterpiece? I don’t get it. So, if Ang Lee does the next schlock Jackie Chan movie, will there be equal praise for that too?

And the ending? Uh…I suck for killing Michelle Yeoh’s true love so I’ll jump off this mountain? By the way, does she die? Who knows since everyone can fly in this movie, it’s sort of left up in the air.

I’ve told everyone I know to avoid it because it was basically a martial arts fairy tale type story with ridiculous special effects thrown in where they don’t belong to try to wow you.

About the only thing I got from the movie is that shooting a poison dart at someone is pretty useless since EVERYONE can easily catch them in their chopsticks (unless, of course, 10,000 of them are shot at you at once, in which case you’ll only successfully block 9,999 of them) :slight_smile:

This was the BEST damned movie I have seen since The Matrix! I went into it expecting - well, I don’t know what. A hokey martial arts movie? A movie with really bad acting and over-done expressions? Cheap, shallow, disposable characters?

Well, it had none of those things.

The storyline is good and has many unpredictable elements, especially the climax. It has fantastically choreographed fight scenes, especially the final fight between the two main female characters, which IMO was one of the best martial arts fight scenes I have ever seen in my life.

It has very good main male characters, who stay in character and act very well. And they look, well, real! No perfect, Britney Spears teeth and hyper-airbrushed looks - they actually look like they could be real people, instead of Hollywood Stepford Acting Botssup[/sup]

The very strong and sharp female characters in the movie really turned me on to it, and gave an excellent balance to the film. People - take your daughters to see this film - they will really click with the “Hidden Dragon” character in the movie, who we see being super tough, resilient, sharp, and even in love in a well-done long flashback in the middle of the movie. (And yes, the love scenes are done very classy, and stay true to the PG-13 rating, so fear not, Moms)

The filming was expertly done, with attention to details even in the most sweeping shots of fantastically beautiful scenery. And like I said before - the martial arts scenes were excellent. You’ll go back and watch “Enter the Dragon” and fall on the floor laughing your ass off at Bruce Lee’s “monkey noises” and badly choreographed punches.

Yes, one thing you can pick on is the “flying”. Well, screw it. This is a tradional theme in Eastern mythology and fantasy tales, even if it does look odd to people accustomed to Western mythology and fantasy tales. Get over your hang-ups, and try to enjoy it and notice that the flying scenes are very well done.

In short, on the Official Una Movie Rating Scale, it receives a 9.5/10.0, which ties The Matrix as being the best action movie I’ve ever seen. In short, see it!

IMHO, of course.

See this movie!!!

Freezing Una (my furnace quit! It’s 49 degrees in the house!)

Earlier in the film someone tells the folk tale of the boy who leaps off the mountain, and thereby causes his family’s wish to come true (no, they DIDN’T wish he’d leap off a mountain!).

Since Lo has wished that he and Jen could be back happily living in the desert, I assume that Jen’s intention was to cause this wish to come true. Which would put her alive and well, with Lo, in the desert. And possibly forestall the poisoning of the Chow Yun Fat character by Jade Fox.

And, uh, Yarster? To precede your commentary with a statement like “I traditionally do not like foreign films” leads most sophisticated readers and film fans to discount pretty much all of what you go on to say. (God damn foreigners! Why can’t they leave our God-given American art form, the Cinema, alone? And they could bathe more often too.)

I don’t understand why some people are grousing about the “flying” (more like Michael Jordan-esque prolonged air times) in the movie. I just figured that was one of the core secrets of the Wudan temple/monastary/martial arts school. The only characters who “fly” in the movie anyway are those who had access to the secret – everyone else (most notably desert nomad Lo and the assorted guards and flunkies) are rooted to the ground like ordinary people.


Wow. It’s nice to find people with some previous knowledge of the genre in an unspecialized forum. As far as what I thought of the movie… Well, I can understand someone like Anthracite being impressed. If you go in with the preconceived notion that martial arts movies are all garbage, (a silly assumption to make) you’ll certainly be proven wrong. I, on the other hand, while not a true expert,(watchable versions of the '60s and '70s King Hu type stuff are almost impossible to find)have seen enough of this sort of thing to be fairly jaded. I see it as a solid addition to the genre, not anything revolutionary. It’s certainly not the first martial “art” film (ha ha) as some people seem the think… For starters, Wong Kar-Wai’s “Ashes of Time” (which I loathe) is a million times more artsy and inaccesible, and Tsui Hark’s “The Blade” (which I love) is more daring and risk-taking.

In some respects, I think CTHD pales in comparison to a lot of cheaper movies. The wirework (which I’m a fan of) is mostly too slow and sloppy looking. The exposition is done in a very routine, sterile way… Shot, reverse shot. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, but I can think of other movies that were more engaging during their “down time.”

I also really found the absence of the “kung fu smack” distracting. These effects sound sort of cheesy, but they’re better than the wussy-sounding “slap” sounds used in this and The Matrix. I really think it makes the fight scene less powerful.

The acting is pretty varied. Michelle Yeoh gives her best acting and fighting performance ever, despite learning Mandarin for this movie alone! The language seems to have been a bigger problem for Chow Yun-Fat, delivers his lines in a very “rehearsed” way, and even briefly slips into Cantonese at least once! I guess 99% of North American audiences wouldn’t know the difference. Zhang Ziyi didn’t impress me as much as some people, but I’m eternally grateful that hideous, screeching harpie Shu Kei turned this film down.

Still, I don’t mean to say it’s a bad movie. It’s a very good movie. It’s just that, given that I’ve followed this movie since it was still being cast, and it’s the most expensive movie of its kind, I find it a bit disappointing that, other than in its technical aspects, it isn’t better than some of its predecessors. I’ll buy this on DVD when it comes out, (Region 3 disc is due out in mere days, lucky bastards) but I’d rather watch The Blade again.

Excuse me? You didn’t quite clarify this enough, I think.

Wanna try a second time?

Well, thanks for not flying off the handle. I didn’t mean to be condescending or anything, I’m just saying that the idea I get when you say… (please forgive me, I’m dumb and lazy and don’t know how to quote properly.)

I went into it expecting - well, I don’t know what. A hokey martial arts movie? A movie with really bad acting and over-done expressions? Cheap, shallow, disposable characters?

…That I get the idea that you, like most people, have some preconceived notions about martial arts movies… Mainly, that they all suck. And I think that while that’s understandable, seeing as most people in the US (and other English-speaking countries) only see either schlocky and poorly-dubbed '70s junk, or at most, dubbed and butchered '90s movies, it’s still silly… And at the risk of offending you, vaguely ethnocentric. Know what I mean, or do I need to make a third attempt? Anyway, I didn’t mean to beat up on you. “People like Anthracite” just meant “the uninitiated,” not “morons.”