Folks... man, how much is a flight to Singapore? Damn I want to see this movie. Would a flight from Prague be cheaper? SIgh... no no no.... can't afford it. ARGH, must wait see great movie. Argh pressure of not beholding coolness now getting too intense.... aaackkk...
I thought I’d weigh in on my own views of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. So here we go: an in-depth review of the film, which I saw in Singapore.
“It’s better than THE MATRIX!”
This is something I have often read at fan sites, especially around the time of Cannes. At the time CROUCHING TIGER was in serious contention for the Palm d’Or. The buzz was electric. When I saw it was on here in Singapore, I couldn’t help myself.
But it’s not. Better than THE MATRIX, that is. Sorry to break a few hearts out there in the wonderful world of fandom.
In fact, the two aren’t even comparable. Now, that’s not as bad as it sounds: They are VERY different sorts of films…And in fact shouldn’t even be compared. WARNING: DO NOT GO INTO THIS MOVIE THINKING OF THE STYLISH ULTRA-GEN-X VISUAL PYROTECHNICS OF THE MATRIX!! THIS IS A DIFFERENT SORT OF MOVIE. If you go into this movie with THE MATRIX in mind, you will be disappointed. If you go into this movie knowing you are part of the rare crowd who love martial-arts and quicker-than-lightening fights, you will not be disappointed. It is as simple as that – if you are part of the latter, you will love and cherish this film.
No, CROUCHING TIGER is not THE MATRIX. What it is, however, is still an amazing film. Ang Lee has created something wonderful and different and breathtakingly full of life. It is a poignant evocation of martial-arts films of yore; of a cinematic style known as "wuxia pian". This style, which began in the sixties with COME DRINK WITH ME of 1965 and DRAGON INN of 1967, among others, is painlessly revisited with Lee’s brilliant camera work and choreography.
Another few words of warning: DO NOT TAKE THIS FILM TOO SERIOUSLY. It is very tongue-in-cheek, and there is plenty of humor to mix in with the deep emotion of which the film is positively dripping with. Hell, there are people floating in this movie, very much an evocation of older martial-arts films, and don’t say to yourself: “Hey, that looks so fake!” At first, that’s what I thought, and yet it’s done in a way which manages to allow remembrance of the older films (done on cheaper budgets) without looking too much like strings. Lee has not pandered to THE MATRIX crowd here, thank God. I love THE MATRIX, but there IS a certain irony in that so many Hong Kong and Chinese filmmakers are now trying to work with MATRIX stylizations, when in fact the Wachowskis were trying to imitate them. The imitators have become the imitated, if you will. Thus CROUCHING TIGER comes as a breath of fresh air without being in any way stale. There are no John Woo style scenes either. It’s very refre! shing.
Anyway, on to the story, so MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD:
Set in Qing China, it involves two aging heroes, Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) and Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) who meet after the latter retires from his Wudan training post. He has come into Peking to give away his ancient sword, and does so. There is definitely a strained sense of love felt between Bai and Lien, which is delved into later in the film. At any rate, he gives away the sword, which is eventually stolen by a mysterious fighter clad-in-black, who has amazing martial arts skills.
Meanwhile, Jen (played fantastically by Zhang Ziyi), a young lady, has arrived in town in order to marry into an aristocratic family and thus a higher social sphere.
And that’s about as far as I am willing to delve. To go any further would be to risk makinh ultimately damaging spoilers, so I won’t get into that. Let me just say that while it begins with a stolen sword, it ends up as much, much more.
You have never seen swordfighting like this film. I promise you. Ziyi is amazing, and her use of swords, fists et all is breathtakingly awesome. The same goes for old pros Fat and Yeoh. My favorite fight scenes: The one between Yeoh and Ziyi, which is simply dazzling in its use of everything from swords to staffs, and the scene in which Ziyi proceeds to take on an entire house of warriors. This is good stuff. You will love it.
But be prepared for something ultimately very different from the everyday Hollywood experience. If that’s your thing, see this movie.
I hope you do. The last thing this world needs is for CROUCHING TIGER to seen by only a few people, because it manages to be more different and excitingly Chinese than anything I have ever seen.