crouching tiger hidden dragon

Revisit the Academy Award-winning martial arts movie that educated the West and changed history.

Although numerous renowned directors cumulatively made more than 800 wuxia movies, none had much of an impact on the growth of kung fu films in the West until a Taiwanese film auteur named Ang Lee entered the picture. He’s the man behind the first and only motion picture to take this art form to Small Town, America. Known for art-house movies such as Sense and Sensibility (1995), The Ice Storm (1997) and Ride With the Devil (1999), Lee left behind all that was familiar to him as he ventured into the production of the high-flying and wildly outrageous Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). Lee said it was like "having John Wayne speaking Chinese in a Western." Based on part of a multivolume, several-thousand-page novel written by Wang Du-lu in the early 1930s, Crouching Tiger is a tale of defiance, duplicity, righteousness and destiny told through the interwoven lives of two women, Yu Shu (Michelle Yeoh) and Jen (Zhang Zi-yi). Along the way, they suffer the torment of undeclared love and are forced to endure the theft of Green Destiny, an ancient and powerful sword. To Western viewers in 2001, the year the movie received wide release in the USA, the sword lore of Crouching Tiger was terra incognita. In a nutshell: Chinese legend holds that each blade has a spirit that sings after it's tasted blood. In the movie, this was brought to life in the form of an overemphasized resonating schwing that was heard whenever a sword was drawn. This was just one of the elements Lee chose when he decided to blend Eastern physical grace and action with American performance intensity and the behavioral subtleties and nuances of European cinema. "Since I grew up with kung fu films, I had to update them in my own fashion," Lee said. “Martial arts films have gone away from the dramatic because you spend 80 percent of your budget and time on martial arts things. It's almost impossible to have both drama and martial arts. Even in the martial arts scenes, it's very difficult and could be dangerous to the actors who have to think about acting while hitting each other in a precise way."

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