Crouching Tiger, hidden dragon is Taiwanese film director Ang Lee's first Chinese-language film in a while. It's set in 19th century China, with just enough western influence to make a westerner feel comfortable.

Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) is a Wudan warrior, who decides to hang up his 400-year old jade-decorated sword, and retire from both the practice of law enforcement and the theory of Wudan meditation. He gives his female partner, Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), his sword, to bring to Sir Te (Sihung Lung) in Beijing for safe keeping.

That night, the sword is stolen. Meanwhile, governor Yu and his family are staying with Sir Te. Their daughter Jen (Ziyi Zhang) will do anything to escape the marriage her parents have arranged for her. And if that were not enough, there's evidence that Jade Fox (Pei-pei Cheng), who poisoned Mu Bai's master, is somehow involved.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is very much a martial arts film, and the action sequences are spectacular. The genre is more totally unrealistic than mildly unrealistic; Wudan adepts are capable (to various degrees) of running up walls and even flight. Ang Lee does an excellent job here, and the result is beautiful; there was applause for most of the sequences (I saw it at an open-air screening as part of the Jerusalem Film Festival 2000).

It's also a good movie plot-wise. I do find Ang Lee somewhat melodramatic (although his films aren't as bad as, say Raise the Red Lanterns), but Tiger, Dragon keeps the drama under fairly tight wraps. The film manages to show something of China, at least to someone who's never seen it. And there is fair discussion of the problems of integrating women in a men's world. The film will probably have a fair commercial run, and you should go see it.

The film is very westerner friendly, in spite of being in Mandarin and Cantonese (2 languages which aren't very common in Europe). There's one joke about the aristocratic accent which is impossible to miss. And by now even Keanu Reeves has done Kung Fu action (I believe with the same martial arts director as this film), so this should pose no special difficulties. It also looks very chinese; even the western desert and the camels in it look somehow different (and I saw it on the eastern end of another desert).

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is based on a book by Du Lu Wang.

Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) is a warrior who has achieved a very high level of skill in the Wudan system of martial arts. This enables him, and other Wudan disciples to do incredible things like run up walls, jump over buildings, and fly through the air without regard for gravity. This is not unlike "The Matrix", except that they do it without the aid of flashy sunglasses and a styling full-leather outfit. No guns either, which is unusual for Chow Yun Fat.

Li Mu Bai's partner, Yu Shu Lien (played by the distinguished Michelle Yeoh) is no slouch either, and can hold her own against nearly any foe.

The premise is that Li Mu Bai, yearning for a simpler existence, gives up his 400-year-old Jade Sword, entrusting its protection to an associate. However, since watching Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien sit around and drink tea is a trifle tedious, this noble effort of Li Mu Bai does not work out quite as planned. The sword is stolen, and this plot device enables the movie to logically incoroprate a wide range of impressive Kung Fu fights.

While Li Mu Bai is more than willing to teach a few people some hard lessons about the finer points of Wudan, Yu Shu Lien is exceptionally eager to get to the bottom of this whole sword-stealing business before anyone else, and so she gets a proportionately larger share of the action.

This movie has been described as a Chinese version of "The Matrix", and while the comparison isn't exact, they do share the same feel and intensity. Certainly a worthy entrant into Kung Fu Flicks: 101, if only as an example of what happens when this kind of movie gets a decent sized budget.

Entertaining, IMHO. But I liked "Five Deadly Venoms" too. YMMV.
"This movie has been described as a Chinese version of "The Matrix", although arguably with more wit and humor..."

No, no, and no. While a decent flick, it is no better than most HK period-piece action flicks, using lots of wire work that at times becomes embarassing -- not because of its implausibility, but because it lacks any of the subtlety of earlier, arguably better movies like Once Upon a Time in China 2. Check out Tsui Hark's choreography during the pole fighting scene in OUTC2 to see how it should be done. This just has a bigger budget and some nice sweeping vistas. BFHD.

Quite simply, Chow Yun Fat should leave the Kung Fu to Jet Li, who, with 5 Wu Shu world championship gold medals under his belt has a bit more practice at making it look natural. Chow Yun Fat's much better in movies where he doesn't have to move around to much, just shoot things (see: The Killer, A Better Tomorrow).

This is mainstream America's education in Kung Fu Flicks 101; with Chow "Hey, I Recognize that Guy!" Yun Fat playing a period "this was a wonderful and awe-inspiring movie" flick that actually had something resembling a budget, people can appear like they're a part of some American HK Kung Fu Zeitgeist by slapping themselves on the back and proclaiming that the new messiah has risen and this movie is indeed the second coming. Evidence is clear: right now everyone is lining up to say "I saw it first! The line for the hip and culturally with-it forms behind me!" Well, I saw it in Thailand two months ago, and it was just as mediocre there as it will be here. Only I paid fifty cents to see it, and these suckers are going to get fleeced eight-fifty.
A good film, with stunning cinematography. However, if you are expecting to see a martial arts film, be warned: this is a fantasy with martial arts elements. The acting is incredible when you consider that they were using an extinct form of Mandarin Chinese (at least according to the Boston Phoenix) which is like a foreign language to them. Imagine Nicholas Cage trying to do a movie using Middle English and I think you get a rough correlation.

Shunryu Suzuki used to tell a relevant story. One disciple bragged to another (they had different teachers) that his teacher could do all sorts of supernatural things. The second disciple replied that his teacher could do even more amazing things. The first disciple challenged him to name them, and he said: "When my teacher eats, he eats. When he sleeps, he sleeps."

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - 2000 - Directed by Ang Lee

Running Time: 119 Minutes. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for martial arts violence and some sexuality.

Special Features:

Technical Features:

This is a great DVD, and an excellent film. The Director's Commentary is one of the best I have heard, Ang Lee and James Schamus really sounded like they were having fun with this. I'm also pretty damn pleased to have this on DVD, as I live in the UK and it only opened in the cinemas here a few weeks ago. I have heard that the western release will probably be packed with even more features. The picture and sound is top notch.

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Lee Ang described the movie as a dream set in ancient China. This movie definitely is not just a great swordfighting movie. It's not just another genre exercise. Like all the best movies, it transcends its genre.

It's a fairytale, a fantasy, a parable steeped in dream symbolism about self-actualisation of the Maiden, and the externalisation of her conflicts with the Mother and the Crone, the other 2 aspects of the Triple Goddess.

It is about the sexual awakening of the Maiden, which starts with the stealing of the Sword from the father figure - an act of emasculation. It's a new Electra myth, with a very heavy feminist slant.

Swordfighting movies have always been fantasies. Except, in the hands of a master director like Lee Ang, the fantasy has the qualities of a lucid dream.

While the movie is truly beautiful, the english dub on the dvd leaves a lot to be desired.

I am not a total purist on this matter, I watch most of my anime dubbed simply because it is easier to watch things again and work at the same time but the english speech takes a lot away from the movie. Yes you still have the breathtaking shots and the excellent fight scenes, but english over the scenes leave them lacking in authenticity.

Even worse, some of the more dramatic exchanges become normal and moot without the power of the original language behind them. Less poetic, less meaningful and less interesting to listen too.

On the upside, whomever they hired to actually do the english voice overs were at least close matches to the original voices so you do not have some strange voice coming over instead of your favorite characters'.
"You know, I saw the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and I didn't see any tigers or dragons. Then I realized, it's because they're crouching and hidden."

--Steve Martin


The unwieldy title of the film in English* refers to the two main characters of the novel, Lo and Jen. The full name of the bandit, Lo, (played by Chang Chen in the movie) is Luo Xiao Hu. His name means "Little Tiger." The Hidden Dragon is Jen, (Zhang Ziyi)-- her full name, Yu Jiao Long, means "Jade Charming Dragon."

The title is also a Chinese proverb. An old poem that described some rocks looking like tigers and tree roots looking like dragons led to the phrase indicating a situation in which there might be unique or extraordinary people hidden in unexpected places, amidst ordinary people.

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is a common expression, which reminds us never to underestimate the mysteries, the potent characters that lie beneath the surface of society.

-Ang Lee

The Tale of Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon was introduced as a 1941 serial for a Qingdao newspaper, later it became the fourth novel in Wang Dulu's Crane - Iron Pentalogy. In the novel, neither Li Mu Bai nor Jen die. They will both appear in the 5th novel, Iron Knight, Silver Vase.
* in Mandarin, it's only four syllables: Wo Hu Cang Long

Sources: Leigh Melton. "CTHD - Title Meaning." 16 December 2000. <alt.asian-movies> (20 June 2001)
<> "Re: CTHD - Title Meaning." 19 December 2000. <alt.asian-movies> (20 June 2001)
"Crane - Iron Pentalogy - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - The Novel." 2000. <>
"The Novel of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon." <> 20 June 2001.
teryne for the html

Apart from anything else, this movie was incredibly beautiful. Everything was beautiful. Even the desert was beautiful, in an eerie, desolate kind of way. I was left feeling very serene afterwards, which seemed a little strange considering the power and energy of the combat sequences. When I first saw The Matrix, the fight scenes of which were nearly as impressive as CTHD's, I came out of the cinema surging with hyperactivity. I couldn't sit down, and had to keep telling myself that running sideways up the nearest wall was not a bright idea. But this movie had a very different feel.

Quiet, peaceful.

I was wondering how it was that a movie featuring such amazing fighting could be quiet and peaceful, and decided it must have a lot to do with how the fights were filmed. The characters move with such grace, dignity and poise (especially Li Bu Mai), that even the most powerful sword slash radiates total calm. And the surrounding environment is usually breathtaking. The fighting in the trees comes to mind here. I was almost mesmerised by the swaying and bending of all that greenery.

A lot of people I've spoken to about this movie, and a few people who submitted writeups under this node have mentioned the obvious wire-work as though it's a bad thing. IMO, it was clear right from the start that the creator of the film was not attempting to make that part of it look realistic. The characters floated through the air as if they were human marionettes, dreamlike. And I'm quite sure that that effect was deliberate. You don't need to suspend your disbelief, because it's not supposed to be interpreted as a reality.

You can discuss whether Jet Li's fu would have been better, you can think about the film's references to feminism, and you can weigh up the lack of realism ... and more power to you, if you enjoy that sort of thing. But for me, this film just represented a beautiful dream, and the best way to experience it is to simply watch, and be immersed.

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