Why do people laugh during Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?

My experience: saw the movie in a pretty packed house in Berkeley, California, a place known for its liberal mores. The first fight scene comes on and when the combatants start flying up walls, I’m surprised to hear a good amount of people laughing.

It wasn’t an excited or delighted laughter brought on by the beauty of the action on screen. It seemed like a derisive laughter, based on the observation: “oh, that is so fake!”

This is the way I took it, and it really angered me. I said as loud as I dared, “it’s not meant to be realistic!” It might seem like an overreaction, but my response didn’t arise simply because they were ruining the tension of the scene.

I’m Chinese, and the laughter seemed to me to smack of cultural superiority. The crowd was overwhelmingly white and they were laughing at this amazing piece of art that came out of my culture and traditions. They seemed to be saying, this is childish or amateurish because it’s beyond the realm of possibility. The worst part was that it continued throughout the movie (in lesser amounts), even after it had become completely clear that these characters are endowed with super powers.

I can’t imagine laughing out loud during a Shakespeare play just because some of the action is less than realistic, and I think the people in that crowd feel the same way. But why do they feel free enough to laugh at a Chinese movie? Is it because martial arts movies are considered stupid or campy here in America (it’s not our fault the dubbing has historically been bad)?

So I’m asking, did you laugh during this movie? Could you explain your motives if you did? Was this a widespread reaction to the movie? Am I overreacting? I’ve heard people laugh in brainless American action movies, but not to this extent (usually seemed like wise-ass kids, not the adults who were doing it here). Are works of art produced outside of Western traditions held to different standards or looked down upon as inferior, even by “liberal” people who think they are open-minded?

Don’t know if this is the correct forum, but I’m throwing it out there. Thanks for any input.


I have to say the laughing during key moments of the movie was quite annoying too.
The second time I saw it, however, the audience was fairly quiet - maybe because it wasn’t opening day.
The laughing didn’t make much sense to me either, though.
It would be like people laughing everytime someone did some superhuman feat (like flying) in The Matrix.
Which they didn’t.
What’s the difference between saying it is through mental manipulation of some Matrix, or study of a mystical manual?
It was all very cool, dark side jedi vs light side. :slight_smile:

The laughing didn’t make a lot of sense to me either. Now, a place where a lot of humour was inserted was in the fight scenes between the Jen and the various thugs.
The husband reference, the no respect bit, the exagerated name she gave herself, the way she cut them down to size, even the reaction of the inn people (loved the taking down of the bird cages).
Yet strangely, didn’t get a lot of laughs there.
Oh well.

Oh, and the one that really pissed me off. The one guy gets a blade right into his skull, killed instantly. Both times I saw it people burst out laughing when Li Mu Bai picks him up off the ground. I asked someone the second time why, and learned that it was because he looked so funny (as though still alive) with his eyes open before Li Mu Bai closes them.
Apparently dead people should have their eyes closed by default, not open wide as though surprised.

Anyway. Just glad I saw it a second time. First time really cut down on my immersion in the film.

I don’t think the laughter was simply because it was “different” but because it was different in a way that is usually considered inferior, or even humorous, in American films.

One of the marks of old, laughable science fiction movies is the bizarre special effects. Giant monsters that are obviously a man in a gorilla suit, or enlarged lizards with spikes glued on accompany overdramatic plots and improbable story lines.

It took me by surprise, too, although I didn’t laugh. My first reaction was puzzlement – why would they put such a cheesy special effect in a serious movie? Others around us did laugh, but that stopped when they figured out it was intentional.

You are correct, IMHO, when you chalk it up to cultural snobbery. Americans have always been pretty good at that. But my guess is everyone would have been less insulting if they had been less ignorant. I had no idea that flying was part of the myth, but I didn’t bat an eye when a lone woman beats up an inn full of tough characters – we’ve seen that one before. James Bond does stuff like that all the time. And I’ve never heard anyone laugh at Superman when he flies. In The Matrix, with similar effects, there was a little more setup and, again, no laughter.

So I think is was mostly due to our lack of understanding of the genre. FWIW, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has probably gone a long way to correct that.

I don’t think the flying effects were cheesy at all.

I saw the film in NYC in Times Square. There were two audiences there. There was an action audience and an art film audience and each had their own reactions. The action people broke into applause at the end of the first two fight scenes. They snickered through the love scenes. The art people snickered a little at some of the flying.

I laughed at the jokes.
BTW A friend of mine took his Chinese parents to the film. They told him that the actors spoke the language so poorly that they just read the subtitles.

I have to admit I, in fact, laughed at the first flying scene, as did much of the audience.

Not because it was unrealistic, but because it was unbelievable- very much a “wink, wink, let’s just pretend,” feeling. The rest of the movie was presented in an honest, straightforward manner (even the fight scenes took themselves seriously); this incongruity was, to me, funny.

Now, I’m not a big fan of the genre; this may well be a standard feature I’m not familiar with- but if so, the rest of the audience wasn’t, either. There’s a first time for everyone- lack of exposure shouldn’t be held against them.

I think part of the reason people laughed is because a lot of them didn’t know what to expect. The word of mouth, in my experience, for CTHD was that it was a really good foreign film not, as most reviews have noted, that it was a “hook and wires” kung fu movie as well. Having known this, and knowing the genre, I wasn’t at all surprised when they started flying, and had to explain to my friend afterwards that “in a lot of kung fu movies, they fly.” I mean, deal with it. :slight_smile:

OTOH, pretty much everybody who went in to watch The Matrix had some idea of what to expect and didn’t laugh at the apparent absurdity of the action.

FTR, I saw it in Hawaii, so there wasn’t that much in the way of cultural snobbery (probably half the audience was chinese).

Heh, if they think that’s bad, they should watch The Storm Riders. Now there’s a movie with some super powers.

No one laughed at the showing I went to, though a few idiots talked through it!
That aside, a couple people I went with were taken aback by the flying. Couldn’t get past the suspension of disbelief thing.
As opposed to the Matrix, which they said they didn’t mind so much because the film more or less explained why people could do what they did.
Me, I knew what to expect from reading reviews.

I guess initial laughter would be fairly forgivable. But one would expect that they’d get over it.

I’m presuming that the first Chinese films to use these techniques probably explained the plausability? Maybe not.

From what I’ve heard, it was just the next step in Kung Fu movies. By eliminating the restrictions of gravity they were able to top/reinvent a well traveled genre.

there were a few funny moments worth laughing at…

The fight at the Inn
and my personal favorite “You may have this sword if you can take it from me in 3 moves!”… swipe!

But I must say the audience i saw it with also laughed at inappropriate times. Then again these are peobably the same people who were expecting a Jackie Chan type film and were prepared to laugh at something so they did.

It was like when I saw the Truman Show… a great deal of that movie was not comedy, but since i saw it on opening night most people were Jim Carey fans and laughed through it because that’s what they expected to do.

Very disturbing.

To be fair, if you’ve never seen a wire-fu movie, it proably did look a little silly. And they were gravity-resistant, even for that. American action and martial arts movies tend to be pretty similar, so a lot of people probably expected more of the same.

A better start off would proably be Once Upon a Time in China, which blended the wire work in a more belivable fasion. Once you get used to martial artists doing superhuman things, you can go on to the more exotic stuff.

Not really. They just got more and more over-the-top as time went on. Same way american action movies did throughout the 80’s.


This thread is more appropriate to IMHO.

I’ll shoot it over there.

I laughed out loud, several times. It was an expression of suprise and delight. I’m no stranger at all to the Jet Li “wire trick” films, and to be honest, I sometimes find them a little trying.

This film, however, was seamless, utterly amazing, and a treat to see on the big screen. My laughter stemmed from pure enjoyment. Maybe that’s something unique to Americans, to chuckle at the unexpected or the supernatural. I don’t know. All I know for sure is that was the best film of its type I’ve ever seen.

If you haven’t yet, go see it.

generated spontaneous applause in the audience who up to then had been awestruck, staring at the screen with mouths wide open. It was so beautiful, so seamless, so utterly enchanting, almost hypnotic … what a shame the rest of the movie sucked large donkey cock.

I have not seen the movie yet, but would like too. It hasnt shown in any local theater, so I guess I will have to wait till it comes out on video.

I guess American audiences aren’t used to that style of chinese cinematography. Myself I am used too it, I remember seeing alot of those types of movies when I was younger.

Its sorta sad they miss the whole point of it all.

I did not laugh. I just got back from seeing it on the Imax screen in Mississauga (took some friends there as a late Yule present) and the I thought the flying-fighting scenes were breathtakingly beautiful and poetic.

Across the tiled roofs of Beijing by moonlight…

They had an IMAX version?!? :eek:

When I went to see the movie, a lot of people laughed the first time they saw the flying sequence, but not afterward. I think for people who are not familiar with this genre it did seem a little cheezy to have these characters flying. After the first scene everyone in my audience seemed to understand that this was done on purpose and why it was done.
I do think you may be overreacting a bit though. People laugh for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to feeling superior. I know many people who laugh during tense scenes out of nervousness or delight. I am sorry that it made your movie experience un-enjoyable. :frowning:
I thought the movie was fantastic. I hope I will get to see it again in the theaters and plan to buy it when it comes out.

I agree with hapa. I was quite taken aback by the laughter at the wirework. I don’t think it is anything cultural. I am Korean, and my wife is black. We both raised our eyebrows at the laughter.

Having said that, I think some of the wirework could have been done better. They should of had them just soar, instead of “kicking air”

i just went to see it for the second time tonight.

i was thinking about this earlier while i was watching it. i kind of liked the motions they used as they jumped through the air, it looked very graceful. it makes a nice contrast to a movie like the matrix, or even the old superman movies, where the “flying” was something people achieved by overcoming a technological/scientific obstacle (the computer matrix, or earth gravity) so they could just kind of soar along without moving their bodies at all, but in CT,HD, the ability to jump/fly comes from spiritual/physical training, so the motions are derived from normal physical human motions- running, jumping. they aren’t really flying- they’re just running better than you can!

maybe i’m reaching. heh. i loved this movie though, it was so beautiful.


I went to see this movie on it’s opening night in Seattle, without even knowing that it was in Chinese, or anything else about it. The crowd at this theater was pretty sophisticated-they applauded at the end of the first fight scene (I did too;it was amazing) and laughed at the jokes, not the action.

hapaXL, I think you were just watching with some people who were not familiar with the genre of film they were seeing. I’ve seen some other action films made in Asia, and my overriding impression is that in these movies martial artists are the Asian equivalent to super heroes in movies here. So the “flying” stuff didn’t strike me as fake or surprising at all. Any other dopers have thoughts on this?