Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
September 17, 2022 10:26 AM - Subscribe

Two warriors in pursuit of a stolen sword and a notorious fugitive are led to an impetuous, physically-skilled, teenage nobleman's daughter, who is at a crossroads in her life.

Roger Ebert's written review: "The best martial arts movies have nothing to do with fighting and everything to do with personal excellence. Their heroes transcend space, gravity, the limitations of the body and the fears of the mind. In a fight scene in a Western movie, it is assumed the fighters hate each other. In a martial arts movie, it's more as if the fighters are joining in a celebration of their powers."

The Making of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (SLYT, ~19 minutes)

A Conversation with Michelle Yeoh: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (SLYT, ~14 minutes)

Weapons Expert Analyzes Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Fight Scene (SLYT, ~12 minutes)

Patrick Explains Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (SLYT, ~12 minutes)
posted by MiraK (13 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Been meaning to revisit this one. But it's just so elegantly sad!
posted by praemunire at 1:42 PM on September 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

I remember first watching that chase sequence after the sword is stolen (with that relentless percussion). When it's over and the music stops so suddenly, I became aware of how tensed up I was in the theater seat and how I could hear my heart pounding in that silence.

I've re-watched it since, but for me this was one of those movies where I can't recapture the magic of that first viewing in the theater.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 6:21 PM on September 17, 2022 [8 favorites]

This was the one bit of entertainment that interested me more than sleep on a recent flight from Seattle to Singapore. It really holds up. Michelle Yeoh is a gem.
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:15 AM on September 18, 2022

If there ever was a movie that needs to be watched on something other than a tiny airplane screen, this is it! I hope you've seen it elsewhere too, OHenry :)

One of the things I enjoy most about this movie is how little backstory exposition there is. The movie doesn't bother to explain itself AT ALL and it is such a relief! To me it's one of the best examples of trusting the audience.
posted by MiraK at 6:44 AM on September 18, 2022

If you like this movie, check out Come Drink with Me (1966). Strong heroine, balletic fighting scenes, tons of humor, campy villain. It's so good! (trailer)
posted by jabah at 10:36 AM on September 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

Right, Alonzo? When Crouching Tiger first came out, it just completely captivated me. As a friend likes to say, I bought a ticket for the whole seat but only used the edge.

I did my best to "recapture the magic," seeing it six or seven more times on its first run, which is pretty extreme for me. It was always amazing, *almost* reaching that initial rush. But, not quite. It still holds up great to this day, but that first time around was quite the experience.
posted by abraxasaxarba at 12:07 PM on September 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

It's worth remembering that CTHD is based on a novel by Wang Dulu, who was one of the founders of modern wuxia novels. Chinese viewers would be about as familiar with the story as western readers would be with the Three Musketeers. So it's a very familiar story. where it shines is making its story clear to a Western audience ignorant of the history.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:10 PM on September 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

I remember going into this, with an impression that Ang Lee was a sort of arty director and wondering what he was going to do with this and would it be up to some of the standards of action movies... and then there was the first chase/fight scene and oh HELL yes.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:19 PM on September 18, 2022

This and Hero really felt like an intentional effort to be approachable by Western audiences.

Very Pretty.

But something like the equivalent of an effects-heavy movie based loosely on legends.
posted by porpoise at 11:23 PM on September 18, 2022

So, for what it’s worth, wuxia stories, films, print, comics, whatever, are not predominantly “action” or “kung fu” stories, although they usually feature characters who fight with real or imaginary martial arts. They are, instead, melodramas featuring characters who are enmeshed in conflicting social and personal expectations and desires. The fighting is almost always driven either by the melodramatic conflict or to communicate the personality of the characters.

The important conflicts in the story are:
* The doomed love between Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien
* Jen/ Yu Jiaolong‘s desire to escape social convention and live as a fighter
* The history of violence between Li Mu Bai and Jade Fox

There’s more, but those three are the engine that drives the story (which is part on one volume of a four-volume novel). The fights arise from them, and each character displays their nature. Jen is brash and careless, Li Mu Bai is patient and precise, Yu Shu Lien is methodical and careful, Jade Fox is clever and duplicitous.

Ang Lee is a great director for this kind of story. I often wonder what his version of the Hulk would have been like if the studio hadn’t stuck is hands in. People who enjoy wuxia stories tend, I think to find American action films flat and garish, while fans of the later find the former talky and sentimental. But, if you ignore the melodrama, you haven’t really watched CTHD.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:18 AM on September 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

Rewatched after a very long layoff now that there is an HDR Blu-Ray out. I have to admit I didn't remember nearly the amount of dialogue there is in the movie. Very exciting fight scenes.
posted by wnissen at 4:33 PM on September 22, 2022

Great movie.

I'm still annoyed that the Crane-Iron Pentalogy has never been translated into English.
posted by kyrademon at 2:57 AM on September 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

Noting that this movie is on limited theatrical re-release this week only in the U.S.
posted by praemunire at 3:59 PM on February 18, 2023

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