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Crash takes a look in Singapore at CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON

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...

Hey Harry,

Crash here.

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.

Crash Davis

Readers Talkback
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  • July 10, 2000, 6 a.m. CST

    sounds like fun

    by pogo on my own

    bring it on

  • July 10, 2000, 6:16 a.m. CST

    Sounds like I've just come.

    by Mad Dog

    Any news on European release dates, Dvd information, oscar contention, subtitles or soundtrack, chinese vcd's????? The only thing I hope is it arrives in its original state and that it isn't ignored.

  • July 10, 2000, 8:13 a.m. CST

    Dragon Inn is REALLY fucked up!

    by Scum Punch

    I remember seeing Dragon Inn on video when I was ten, and thinking it was the coolest flick ever. A lot of insane kung fu and wire fighting and a complete disregard towards physics. I still remember archers imbueing their 'mystical training' upon arrows to tear people to shreds. Cool, childish fun.

  • July 10, 2000, 9:52 a.m. CST

    Yeah, Dragon Inn is a hoot.

    by twindaggerturkey

    Maggie Cheung is great and there are some really classic bits of violence- I won't tell you what they are, you have to see them. If you liked Dragon Inn, you should also check out All Men are Brothers. The action is really fun and over-the-top but what makes the movie is its excellent story and characterization- there's this wacky monk played by Tsui Kam Kong who is truly one of the most wonderful people ever put on screen.

  • July 10, 2000, 2:15 p.m. CST

    I'm glad

    by studio plant

    I think I'm one of the few people who are GLAD Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon isn't the Matrix. While I kinda liked the Matrix it wasn't William Gibson. Plus I think everyone forgets how BORING the middle of the movie was (Keanu's training) and only remember how good it was once they got back in the Matrix. I hope CTHD is a more rounded story. And from the film clips on the website, it looks the the fight scenes kick ass. Forget The Matrix is right.

  • July 10, 2000, 3 p.m. CST

    Better than the "The Matrix"? Probably.

    by crimsonrage

    Now certain films can't be compared, but that does not mean one is not better than the other. I wouldn't compare "Citizen Kane" and "Fight Club", because they are completely different. But, obviously "Citizen Kane" is the greater film.(Yes, I said it. Now every "Fight Club" fan is gonna pee themselves in anger.)"CTHD" is probably better than "The Matrix" because "The Matrix" was nothing great. Some of it was really cool, and some of it was cornier than my poop after eating some cobs. Trinity kisses Neo and he comes back to life? What is that crap? Or what about the idiotic dialogue, "Believe it or not you piece of sh-t, you're still gonna' burn!!!!!!" Some of you will say "It's Sci-Fi fantasy, it has to have some corny parts!" To that I say,"What about the "The Phantom Menace" then?" Well,I have to go now. Bye.

  • July 10, 2000, 3:36 p.m. CST

    Crouching tiger

    by ungiftedamateur

    The stuff in this site has got me really excited about this film. Must admit though that the trailer I saw with the 2floating" stuff did look a bit fake, but i guess i should see it in context. I've seen dragon Inn, which i didn't really like cos the editing was so quick and MTV that I couldn't really follow it. Hopefully, that won't be a problem here. I can't resist a comment on the Matrix. It came up at a time when I'd just about given up on blockbusters and it was very fresh at the time. Sure you can quibble with it, but it succeeded in its own terms. To risk a flaming-I think it's the best martial arts movie with Hollywood production values. I'm a big Jackie Chan fan, but his best work (in the eighties) has a cultural barrier and the more anglicized films (say from First strike onwards) have had threadbare plot and woeful acting by the supporting characters. Rush Hour was actually enjoyable cos the story was at least servicable, the actors were not hammy although Jackie's skills were on low flame. I hope Jackie can find a vehicle of the quality of the Matrix to display his talents. Meanwhile, roll on Ang Lee. Finally, is Chow Yun Fat back to being the coolest man on the planet in this one?

  • July 10, 2000, 8:02 p.m. CST

    Dragon Inn - There's two of them

    by Dagan

    I think the Dragon Inn the guy in the article is talking about is the older one from 1967 - probably the same one the first talkbacker that references it "saw it when I was ten" - is talking about. Some of you are mentioning the Maggie Cheung one, too, however, as if it's the same movie - but it's not. The Maggie Cheung one was a remake from 1992, I believe.

  • July 10, 2000, 8:31 p.m. CST

    Crimsonrage, expect to see a few spacemonkeys tonight !!

    by darius25

    Just kidding. Actually I can't comment because I haven't seen CK!! There, I SAID it. I do disagree with your comment on The Matrix, though. I mean, you HAVE to say WTF at that moment. The movie HAS to break through all logic - IT'S A FANTASY!!! It's like really good anime, you're supposed to suspend reality and have a good time.

  • July 10, 2000, 8:45 p.m. CST

    CTHD absolutely rocks

    by Ribsy

    Having seen CTHD on Saturday, all I can say is it blew my mind away. After the first 20 minutes, I was already desperate to see the film again. I'm not a Kung Fu fan nor any sort of expert on Asian cinema but I sat there with my mouth wide open at wonder at what I was seeing. The fights were far better than the Matrix mainly because the people doing the fighting were real martial arts experts. the sword fights made me think how wonderful Star Wars lightsabre fights would be if done this way. And, if anyone has a problem with wire work, well, you've got a problem with any film that is not 100% realistic. The flying marks the real bad asses out from the rest - it's a sign of their mastery of their art. Me, I'm off to see it again tonight!

  • July 10, 2000, 10:06 p.m. CST

    To Dagan- I know that!!

    by twindaggerturkey

    I just didn't think that guy would be so ecstatic about the 60's version. Plus, we don't know how old he is. I saw part of the original one and wasn't too impressed. I liked John Woo's early kung-fu movie Last Hurrah for Chivalry, though.

  • July 11, 2000, 11:08 p.m. CST

    Last Hurrah for Chivalry ROCKS!!!!

    by darius25

    Hey twindagger, thanks for mentioning LHFC!! That is one of the best Kung-fu flicks I have ever seen. I mean that fight in the middle of the movie between the hero and one of the bad guys (the fight on an open grass field - just the one on one) is the best fight I have ever seen. The only fight that comes close is 20min+ fight scene between Jackie and two guys on the rooftop in Who Am I. By the way, if there are people that havent seen Who Am I, please watch it now. It's Jackie's best movie!!

  • July 14, 2000, 12:17 p.m. CST

    Matrix is not as good as everyone says it is! It's got it's flaw

    by PandaPan

    Don't get me wrong here. The Matrix was a good movie, but I just thought that the fighting scenes were a bit dissapointing. They could have been much better and if they were, the movie would have been perfect. O.k. the fighting scenes were o.k. but I guess, watching a movie at that level, one expects more of it. I find the fighting scenes in Crouchin Tiger much better... much much better. Even if it is by means of wire, so what? I mean, look at the Matrix... one could see the wires all over the damn place, especially when Trinity flipped off the wall... that looked fake, but big deal! It looks cool! There of course should be a combination, and the more fighting, the better. The Matrix has the better special effects of course, but then one has to look at the budget... Hopefully more movies like the Crouching Tiger will come out. It's worth seeing! And as for Matrix 2... I hope that it will not be as dissapointing as most other sequels.