Movie Review: Wo hu cang long (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) (2000)


Seen: On dvd on our projector set-up, rented from Hollywood Express in Cambridge.

Somehow, for no particular reason, I missed the whole “wire-fu” trend of the early 2000s. And I just never caught up with it. But lately I’m definitely into expanding my martial arts film knowledge, and when Sasha went on about how great Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is (while discussing our poster tumblr that you should be following), it seemed high time I watch it. And by golly am I glad I did! Set in Qing Dynasty China, the film follows warriors Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) and Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat) as they search for a powerful sword stolen from a Peking businessman. The sword belonged to Li Mu Bai and holds sordid memories for him, but when he meets the mysterious fighter who took it- fierce teenage noblewoman Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi), chafing against her family and societal obligations- he realizes he may have found a student worthy of its mastery. But her hot-headed bid for independence as well as the appearance of the outlaw who killed Li Mu Bai’s mentor make for some complications.

This Movie. Is SOOOOO. GOOOOOOOOD. Oh my gosh, for real you guys, like have you heard about it? Has anyone told you in the past 12 years that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a perfect movie? BECAUSE SOMEHOW I MISSED THAT. It’s basically just badass women fighting for two hours. And when they’re not fighting, they’re hella passing the Bechdel Test because all they talk about is fighting! And swords, and how much marriage sucks, and the future. It’s so great. I loved the story, layered with flashbacks about Jen Yu’s desert adventures and yearning discussions about Shu Lien’s and Li Mu Bai’s checkered relationship. The characters are complex and interesting, with no one standing out as a clear villain as various motivations were uncovered, meaning I basically loved everyone. Though obviously Michelle Yeoh is the absolute coolest. The visuals are gorgeous, rife with grandeur and color and- when the moment calls for it- tranquility.

BUT THE FIGHTING. It’s a good movie all over the place, but the fight scenes make it great. Ang Lee really captures the dance-like nature of sword fighting, stressing elegance and grace over gore. There is great attention to weaponry, choreography, and setting- from a two-story restaurant to the tree tops-, making for an almost loving facsimile of deadly swordplay. All the running and flying and leaping is beautiful, but I could watch these people try to kill each other all day. Especially the ladies.

Anyway yes this movie is amazing in every way, I’m in love with it, sorry I didn’t figure it out sooner, you all probably already knew this. I’m just behind on everything, as you are likely aware.


Pair This Movie With: Well yeah like I said I haven’t really seen other movies like this, so I don’t know. Some of the visuals and the desert setting reminded me of A Woman, A Gun, and A Noodle Shop. Otherwise I don’t know.

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