Friday, December 20, 2013

231 of 1001 Movies: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

I've never considered myself into martial arts movies. Recently they have been some of the more enjoyable movies I've watched though. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is no exception. Ang Lee brings his eye for detail and story telling to this movie, and makes it pop with a lot of emotion and complex characters. The acting is also really good, and I felt they bring the characters to life more than any other part of the movie could.

Summary: Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien find themselves in pursuit of a stolen sword that will lead them to cross paths with an old enemy, and to a girl, Jen Yu, who is having to make a big choice in her life. Jade Fox isn't the only one who could be responsible for the stolen sword though. Jen Yu is seeking to rebel from her family, and her associations with Jade Fox are only fueling her rebellion. She has lost hope in being with her lover, Dark Cloud, and believes that she must settle for an arranged marriage. Yu Shu Lien hopes she can befriend her though, and encourage her to take the right path.

Acting: I thought the movie was very well acted. Yun Fat Chow plays Li Mu Bai with all the character you would expect him to have. He gets you more attached to the character than you would expect by the end, and the love story that him and Yu Shu Lien have by the end of the movie. Michelle You plays a great female character in Yu Shu Lien. She is tough, but she also values her femininity, and what that means even if others view it has oppressive.  She isn't a whiner or a nagger, and she tries to motivate Jen to do the right thing. Ziyi Zhang was good as Jen, but for some reason I could never really grow to like her character. I don't know if that was intentional, or something just on her part, but I found her to be very selfish the entire time without a lot of care for the harm she might cause others. Chen Chang was Dark Cloud, and while he didn't have as much screen time I found him to be a likable guy, but maybe just a tad goofy? I was wondering if he could handle a lifetime of Jen?

Filming: If you've seen any of Ang Lee's movies you know that the way he shoots a movie and the scenery he captures is a huge part of what make them pop. The location is also amazing with lots of mountains, and even the desert scenes pop. Plus, the score that goes with this movie brings it a lot of life that makes the story have more of that epic vibe. One thing viewers might be divided over is how the martial arts is captured, and the fantasy aspect. This movie has choreographed fights in trees, and some type of technique of walking on strings that gives the appearance the characters are flying. It seems the technique is divisive, and to be honest the fantasy aspect is what took away some of the power of the movie for me. Running through the air just didn't fit in with the vibe.

Plot: The plot is one that features a lot of well done romance. I think Ang Lee has a like for creating forbidden love on screen. Besides that I usually do like a lot of the values and morals that are portrayed in Asian movies. They just seem to be a lot more traditional and offer up those ideas through their movies in how they treat others and pursue their wants without also intruding upon others. It does show how Jen being the younger person though, is beginning to let go of some of the ideas that her parents and elders have though, and in some ways that isn't always a bad thing. The movie is great for men and women, but it should stifle many of the complaints people can make that females aren't portrayed well in movies. The lead women aren't always discussing men, and for the most part they seem rather private about their love lives. They also defend themselves, and do try to help each other. It isn't about being catty and conniving to each other all through the movie, but don't get me wrong sometimes it gets ugly between them.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon I enjoyed more than I expected. I loved how the overall movie came together to create likable characters, and gave us some deeper reasons for why they had been fighting for what they are fighting for. The movie is also one of the few I've seen that doesn't portray women in a bad light, and gives us some stronger basis for what being a woman is about.

Rating 8 of 10.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) on IMDb

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