Sunday, October 12, 2014

Family Movie Night: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Title: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Director: Ang Lee
Original Release: 2000
Choice: My Wife's
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
via Wikipedia
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, produced on a $17 million dollar budget, grossed $213 million worldwide in its theatrical release.  It was nominated for ten Academy Awards, won four and probably should have been Best Picture (Gladiator won instead).  The film inspired a wave of interest in Chinese film in the western world.  IMDb's synopsis: "Two warriors in pursuit of a stolen sword and a notorious fugitive are led to an impetuous, physically skilled, adolescent nobleman's daughter, who is at a crossroads in her life."



The story is based on the fourth of a series of five novels known in China as the Crane Iron Pentalogy by Wang Dulu.  The books have never been translated to English but apparently the first book, Crane Frightens Kunlun, is currently in progress.  The narrative is strong but the magic of the film is in the visual presentation.  The film's scenery is stunning.  Peter Pau won an Oscar for Cinematography as did Timmy Yip for Art Direction.  Every fight scene is mesmerizing, often greatly enhanced by special effects.

It's a great Girl Power movie.  All of the women hold their own in both martial arts and fencing, especially Jen Yu, portrayed by Ziyi Zhang.  In one scene, she lays an entire restaurant to waste.  Her duel with Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat) atop a bamboo forest is particularly memorable.



Composer Tan Dun won an Oscar, a Grammy and a BAFTA for the film's score.  Cellist Yo-Yo Ma features prominently as a soloist.  More recently, Dun composed music for the medal ceremonies at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

*****

My Rating System:

5 = The best of the best.  These are the films by which I judge other films.
4 = High quality films which I feel could hold up well in repeated viewings.
3 = The vast majority of films.  They're fine.  Once was enough.
2 = I wasn't even sure I wanted to finish it.  It's not a 1 because I'm not prepared to say it's a terrible film - just not my cup of tea.
1 = A terrible film.  An insult to the art form.

40 comments:

  1. Been a long time since I watched it but thought it was an incredible movie. Ang Lee has rather struggled since then.

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    1. Struggled? He's won two Oscars! Or are you being sarcastic?

      I actually haven't seen any of his films since.

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  2. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was a beautiful movie.

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  3. I remember watching this film with my wife and daughter and enjoying it very much --especially scenes of antigravitational scampering up things. The action was somewhere between dream and reality, quite novel and visually exciting.

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    1. The antigrav scenes have lost none of their magic for me, either. Much better to do that stuff with wires than with green screens, CGI, etc.

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  4. So enjoyed everything about this movie.
    Wonderful.
    I use to watch lots of Asian movies...
    Japanese (interesting studies of people)
    Korean, (everyone gets beaten up then dies)
    Hong Kong, (just about everyone dies but one bad guy)
    Chinese movies, (heroic history)
    Just a general feeling,

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Haha! Lovely summation of Asian film. Did your interests extend to Bollywood?

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    2. No, I just never got interested in them.
      Daughter showed me a few old black and white film noir type movies from the 1950's (?) that were interesting.
      But too much.... something I just can't put my finger on, angst ?

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    3. Indian films are long, too. A 3-4 hour time commitment is standard. The music and dancing are fantastic, though.

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  5. Ang should have won for this one. Nothing he's done since has been nearly as good, including Pi (which I didn't care for), although I very much appreciate what he did with the Hulk.
    Gladiator is a horrible film and shouldn't even have been nominated,

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    1. As I think we've discussed before, the opening scene of Gladiator is amazing to me. I can't say I really remember much else about the film.

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    2. I would probably have been okay with Gladiator if not for the stupid ending. But, then, a stupid ending can ruin something that was otherwise good, like the first Shannara (?sp) book.

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    3. That was the thumbs up, thumbs down thing, right? Yeah. Weak.

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    4. Well, I was specifically talking about the Emperor walking down into the arena and fighting. I mean, since you can look up how that guy died (assassinated by poison, I think); it's just dumb.

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    5. Apart from historical inaccuracy, it undercuts the power dynamics so firmly established over the course of the film.

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    6. In a movie that sort of billed itself as historically accurate, I couldn't deal with the blatant disregard for history.
      Rather like Jackson and his whole "I'm being true to the source material" in regards to The Hobbit.

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  6. Oh, and I meant to say:
    I've been meaning to sit down and watch this one with my kids for a while. We own it, so I'm not sure why I haven't. It's been years since I watched it last.

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    1. I'd be interested to know what your kids think of it. The Purple Peguin enjoyed it.

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    2. I'll let you know when we watch it.

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  7. Hey, i loved this film. Thanks for the revisit. I agree with your stars!

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    1. Thanks, Denise! And thanks for stopping by!

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  8. I remember watching with kids on big screen. My kids enjoyed it!

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    1. We saw it on the big screen, too, back in Y2K. There were moments during this viewing that I felt it loses something on a smaller screen. The chase scene across the rooftops, for instance, was definitely more impressive in the theater.

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  9. I can appreciate this movie for what it is, but I think its worth has always been exaggerated. It came along at a perfect time for US audiences to love it, a year after The Matrix repopularized martial arts and during the days of Jackie Chan and Jet Li making Hollywood movies and John Woo directing them. Good timing. Memorable visuals. And of course Ang Lee. But at its heart it's a pretty standard Asian film experience that stands more on the innovative action than anything its story did. Maybe the Girl Power helped, too. (Ziyi Zhang became a star because of it, Michelle Yeoh had already been a Bond girl.) I just didn't feel as if it was anything more than a surface experience, which itself is fine, but not overall comparable to the superior flare of Matrix. And outside of that comparison, without a Chan or a Li pulling these stunts off on their own, it becomes a circus act when stripped to its core. Which is fine, too, but as an enduring image somewhat diminished even on that score.

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    1. The timing definitely helped. The fact that Ang Lee was an NYU-trained director who already had Sense and Sensibility under his belt didn't hurt for cross-cultural appeal, either. For me, the presentation is stronger than the story but that said, it's still every bit as beautiful as it was 14 years ago. What special effects there are pretty simple and straightforward. As such, I think it has aged better than a lot of the high tech scifi of the same era.

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  10. An amazing movie with ground-breaking fight scenes but a very touching love story at it's heart.

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    1. It's a very nicely balanced film between action and emotion.

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  11. I love that movie, but Traffic should have won Best Picture that year. Crouching Tiger came out when The Hurricane was in high school. She had a friend from Taiwan who explained a lot of the symbolism in the movie to her. Of course, I can't remember any of the explanations, but they really did add to my enjoyment of the movie at the time.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I liked Traffic a lot as I do Erin Brockovich - a very strong year. My favorite movie from that year, though, wasn't even nominated for Best Picture: Almost Famous. It did win for Original Screenplay, though.

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    2. I love Almost Famous. It deserved Original Screenplay. I was kind of sad that Kate Hudson didn't win Best Supporting. Marcia Gay Harden won. She is a very talented actress.

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    3. Kate Hudson totally deserved it - highly memorable role.

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  12. I completely missed this, both in theaters and on satellite, but I will definitely DVR it if I ever see it on the schedule.

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  13. I never saw it but I remember it being all the buzz the year it came out!

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  14. #4. We loved it then, and we love it now. The following films tried to reach to novelty of the first film, but failed.

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    1. Agreed. House of Flying Daggers and Hero were pale imitations.

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