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A Work Of Art,
This review is from: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon [DVD]  (DVD)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a traditionally made wuxia, or Chinese martial arts film. It fulfills most of the melodrama shown in standard kung-fu movies, and yet it is so much more than that.
Chow Yun Fat plays Li Mu Bai, an outstanding warrior of the Wutan style of martial arts and swordplay. He is on a mission to avenge the murder of his Master, but he is also bound with honour to deny the love he feels for his best friend, Yu Shu Lien, played by Michelle Yeoh.
Mu Bai gives Shu Lien The Green Destiny, his cherished sword, and asks her to deliver it to Sir Te, Lung Sihung, a leader and a friend of her father.
As soon as the sword gets placed on display, it gets stolen. It is widely believed that Jade Fox, the arch-nemesis of Mu Bai, is behind the disappearance of The Green Destiny.
Shu Lien, however, believes that Jen, the daughter of a governor who is a house guest of Sir Te, has something to do with it. The story continues as Mu Bai and Shu Lien attempt to regain possession of the sword.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is beautiful on many levels. It depicts diverse landscapes of China, from the Gobi desert, the ancient metropolis of Peking, through to the southern Bamboo Forest.
The beauty of the film lies far deeper than mere scenery though. It lies within the human emotions, their connections and repressed feelings. Each character in the film is like a river, calm on the exterior with a current flowing fast beneath the surface.
The advantage of the dvd is for those who are put off by subtitles. The original production is filmed in Mandarin and subtitled in English. Dvd means that you can dub over the film in English, if you prefer. It is interesting to note, however, that both Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat speak Cantonese, and were, therefore, speaking in a language which was not their own.
The first real action scene is about twenty minutes into the film and it is difficult to do it justice, for it is far removed from your usual martial art films. It includes gravity-defying leaps, and body-defying contortions. Absolutely fantastic!
These acclaimed combat scenes are choreographed by Yuen Wo-Ping, who also arranged The Matrix fights, and although I hate wire-stunt work in fight scenes, it does actually have a place in this film because the story supports it, Wutan warriors are trained to control this special ability. Ang Lee also saved the magical quality of these fights by cutting in for long close ups of the actors/actresses as they stare into each other's faces, scrutinising and trying to figure each other out. This is so much more than a mere fighting movie.
Michelle Yeoh is like a shining star in this movie. She plays such a humble and compassionate character, and yet is a true warrior, through and through.
Zhang Ziyi, however, is who really makes this film what is, a masterpiece. Her character, Jen, goes through so many different emotions, and she plays them flawlessly. She is the 'Hidden Dragon' of the title, her full name translating into, 'Nimble Jade Dragon'. Lo Xiao Hu, the Mongolian bandit that she falls in love with, is the 'Crouching Tiger', for his name translates as 'Little Tiger'.
The real heart of this movie is in the extended love scene between Jen and Lo, despite criticism to the contrary. Set against a backdrop of the Gobi desert, their relationship is refreshing in its sincerity.
The ending is tragic, and yet, it is not all saddening. Ang Lee's message, to be true to yourself, is clear to the viewer as the film draws to a close.
Truly - A work of art.