Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat), a weary martial arts warrior anxious to hang up his 400-year-old sword, must first dissuade a young woman from seeking a life of adventure by following his old nemesis Jade Fox (Cheng Pei Pei). With the aid of Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), a female warrior Li Mu Bai has loved in silence, he soon discovers that the young beauty is nearly as proficient with a sword and the art of battle as is he. When the ancient sword is stolen, the stage is set for the honorable warriors to battle Jade Fox, who is determined to destroy Li Mu Bai.
Bruce Lee made physicality the central element to the success of Chinese action films. Jackie Chan added humor and precision to the genre. Now, director Ang Lee brings astonishing visual effects to martial arts. His warriors don’t merely jump higher than physically possible, they literally fly. Indeed, much of the film has its heroes chasing their adversaries over rooftops and, in one instance, through forests, stopping to sword fight atop towering trees. The film is action-packed, equally splitting time between romance and confounding fight sequences. It is, to say the least, a very visual film.
Although it has a woman praying to a shrine, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is not about promoting Eastern religious beliefs. Nor does the exuberant choreography suggest legitimate sorcery. Nothing in it, except for the themes of love and honor, is to be taken seriously. It is fantasy. The fly in the dim sum, however, is the film’s one sexual encounter between an unwed couple that seems to imply the unimportance of marriage. But it is a short scene with no nudity, and it is clear that they truly love each other. The violence, while continuous, is artful and nearly bloodless. While we suggest caution concerning the brief sexuality, the film’s positive message is that good will conquer evil if we continue to battle it.