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January 19, 2001

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Okay, it's Friday, but I needed to mull this one over. Alan and a friend of his whose name I've forgotten, Tom, James and I went downtown Wednesday night to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Wednesday nights are usually a night when I do self-paced study, so I did a deal with Jean to stay out somewhat later and went to the movie.

Alan was somewhat disappointed, having seen a million Wu Xia movies before. I have too, but I didn't buy into the hype, so I didn't have inflated expectations. This was clearly an Ang Lee movie, to anyone who has seen any of his other films, from Taiwan or Hollywood. While he was careful to include nearly every requisite setting (Governor's compound, wayside, restaurant, forest) for the martial arts sequences, there was a great deal of attention paid to character.

Much of the acting was very subdued, with a lot of subtle dialogue. Even so, I didn't feel that there was a huge amount of character development. Rather, the choice of Chow-Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh and other cast members allowed their rather intense screen presence to boost the drama to a higher level. When two actors can sit quietly, amiably drinking tea, and charge the scene with energy, something is being done right.

This picture opened here for one week at a local art theatre, Cinema 21. It's the only place it's showing in town, and the house has been full for all showings, according to reports I've received from friends and acquaintances. It was packed full when we went, and when we left, there was a line around the block for the 9pm showing. The local megaplex chain hasn't picked it up yet, but they'd be idiots not to.

Is this the best martial arts movie ever? No, it's not. It is very good, with some interesting fight sequences and reasonably cool wire work. But really it is a hybrid. At the risk of sounding Hollywood High Concept, it is Sense and Sensibility meets Fong Sai Yuk. That is to say, a parlor drama crossed with a martial arts fantasy.

Posted by dpwakefield at January 19, 2001 10:10 AM



Posted by: popo at November 25, 2003 09:03 AM