BY AMBER KELLY-ANDERSON
WHAT it’s about: Before grappling with the Siberian Tiger at the core of Life of Pi, Ang Lee took on the metaphorical tigers of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as two warriors search for the stole Green Sword of Destiny. Breathtaking action sequences augment the themes of ill-fated love, honor, and destiny.
WHO’s in it: Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, and Chen Chang.
WHEN it came out: 2000
HOW come you haven’t heard of (or just seen) it: You may have heard of it, but you have most certainly seen the impact of Yuen Woo-Ping’s gravity defying fight choreography in films like Charlie’s Angels and The Musketeer. If you did see it, you may have forgotten just how fantastic it is because so many imitators followed, diluting its shining brilliance.
WHY you need to watch it–immediately!
- The fight scenes. Holy cow, the fight scenes. Seeing this in the theatre for the first time, the audience around me literally gasped during the sequence between Yu (Yeoh) and the to-be-revealed-later Jen (Ziyi). Both women trained as dancers, a fact that is evident in their balletic, yet lightning-fast battle. Later, Jen and Mu Bai (Yun-Fat) literally balance on tree tops as they spar. Scenes like these showcase not just the choreography, but also Lee’s grasp of visual complexity without overloading the senses.
- As a director, Ang Lee is a paradox within himself: each of his films is its own work of art while still being distinctly his vision. The same director that brought us the longing and heartbreak of Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm, and Brokeback Mountain also reminded movie goers of the art in martial arts with Crouching Tiger without sacrificing his elegance and powerful storytelling. Like Life of Pi, Crouching Tiger is a fairytale with relatable themes and that increasing Hollywood rarity: style and substance.
- There is a reason the film stands as the most Academy Award nominated foreign film in history: it is beautiful. The sets, costumes and music weave together seamlessly to create a cohesive, visually stunning world. Take note, Michael Bay. It only cost $17 million to make.
- The love stories that reside within Crouching Tiger represent the same paradoxical nature in their epic tragedy, tempered with deeply rendered tenderness. A lesser filmmaker might stray to the sentimental, but Lee honors his characters by allowing their stories to end in a way that befits their struggles.
- Girl power! While the movie is about two sets of lovers, it strongly features women in both good and bad roles, shown fighting, holding their own, and often surpassing the men. Jen shirks her traditional female role, shaping her destiny, which may or may not include romance. Ziyi essentially made her career playing characters like Jen (House of Flying Daggers and Hero). And Western audiences got a taste of Michelle Yeoh as something more than a Bond girl.
Amber Kelly-Anderson is a Texas-based writer and literature professor harbouring a long-standing infatuation with film. Her lifelong missions are to Save Ferris and voice a Pixar character. Read more of Amber’s posts.
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