TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON touts itself as a
martial arts film, which in a sense, it
is, but that is not all it is. This beautifully
photographed picture, directed with an
incredibly gentle and reserved touch by
Ang Lee (SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, THE ICE
STORM, RIDE WITH THE DEVIL), is actually
a dreamy, hypnotic fairy tale. Accompanied
by the soulful, romantic music of Tan
Dun, and set against the backdrop of Qing
Dynasty China, CROUCHING TIGER… tells
the relatively simple tale of a sword
called The Green Destiny. The sword is
a magical, mystical weapon that supposedly
contains the secrets of life itself. Possession
of The Green Destiny intertwines the lives
of Li Mu Bai (Chow), a famous martial
arts master, his former love Yu Shu Lien
(Yeoh), a beautiful, strong-willed young
girl named Jen Yu (Zhang), and an enigmatic
bandit known as Jade Fox (Cheng).
action scenes—most of them surprisingly
devoid of bloodletting—are balletically
choreographed by Yuen Wo-Ping (THE MATRIX).
These scenes are unique in that they are
not restricted, as are most martial arts
films, to man versus man. There are confrontations
between Yu and Jen, Jade Fox and a policewoman,
and even one scuffle between Jen and a
crowd of ruffians.
it is actually what comes between the
battles that makes the film so mesmerizing.
Jen falls for a dashing desert outlaw
named Lo (Chang). Their love scenes, which
take place in what's supposed to be a
cave in the Gobi Desert, and are photographed
in a soft, earth-warmed light, are both
sensuous and unabashedly romantic. There
is a segment involving Jen and Li, which,
in its execution, unfolds like the proverbial
midsummer night's dream. Li and the girl
have matured to such a point in their
art that the laws of nature no longer
apply to them. They participate in a battle—more
of wits than of fists—in which the two
attractive people, finding themselves
in a forest of gently swaying willow trees,
literally fly up and onto the delicate
branches. While floating feather-like
from tree to tree, the combatants exchange
ideologies, eventually forming a bond
that is a crucial turning point in the
story. Sprinkled throughout the film are
intense close-ups of the soulful, sensitive
face of Zhang, probably one of the most
beautiful and appealing young actresses
to come along in the last 20 years.
Lee injects some dry and satiric humor
into the film. When Jen first meets Lo
(also known as Dark Cloud) he tells her,
"I'm not big, I'm not tall, but I'm quick."
To escape an arranged marriage, Jen disguises
herself as a boy and takes refuge at a
tavern, where, true to the martial arts
genre, she is accosted by a group of muscular
gangsters who challenge her to a fight.
In a scene more comic than violent, the
slight, birdlike girl manages to make
Chinese corned beef hash out of her tormentors.
expecting a knock-down, drag-out Jackie
Chan-type film might be disappointed.
However, it is possible even the most
ardent fan of the martial arts genre will
be touched by this film, which unfolds
like a Hans Christian Andersen story,
and has the look of a child's most fondly-remembered
Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
It’s worth a full-price ticket.
It’s worth a matinee ticket.
Wait for video rental.
Check out the video from the library, if you must.
While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...