The Guardian January 31, 2001


Film Review:
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

by Andrew Jackson

Jen, a young aristocratic woman, struggles to escape from her empty life of 
privilege and an arranged marriage. Unrestrained freedom, however, does not 
bring the happiness she imagined; she must learn that rebellion without 
discipline can bring disastrous consequences.

Shu Lien has also escaped the traditional woman's role by becoming a Wu Dan 
sword master, sacrificing love and happiness she dedicates her life the 
pursuit of justice and honour.

Shu Lien's attempts to guide the young rebel fail, Jen's anger at society 
and yearning for excitement leave her hell-bent on a path to destruction.

Shu Lien enlists the help of her old comrade Mu Bai, the electricity of 
their unfulfilled love crackling in the air as they fly across China in hot 
pursuit of Jen; an enigmatic murderer called Jade Fox; and a stolen sword -
- the legendary "Green Destiny".

Filmed across all four corners of China, the characters lead us from the 
bamboo forests of the far south-east, to the frozen peaks of the Taklamakan 
Plateau in northern Tibet, and the across the panoramic wasteland of the 
Gobi Desert.

In this stunning recreation of ancient China, Taiwanese Director Ang Lee 
combines the best of dramatic Chinese Opera, Hong Kong martial arts action 
flick, and modern special effects.

Comfortable working in both Chinese and English, Ang Lee's story-telling 
possesses a cross-cultural appeal  his previous films The Wedding 
Banquet, Eat Drink Man Woman and The Ice Storm being 
critically acclaimed in both hemispheres.

The production of Crouching Tiger is set against the modern day 
backdrop of China-Taiwan relations.

After the civil war, socialist revolution and US intervention which led to 
their separation, the neurotic Taiwanese regime instituted severe 
censorship laws, banning all mainland books, film and music, and anything 
the reactionary government considered even remotely inflammatory or 
subversive, in an attempt to maintain the culture and values of its 
Imperial past.

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was fourth in a set of five books 
written at the turn of the 20th century, but was not published in Taiwan 
until five years ago.

Ang Lee took advantage of a recent relaxation in censorship and travel 
laws, jumping at the chance to make the film and use the opportunity to 
explore his homeland.

The incredible cast were drawn from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia. 
Chow Yun Fat, star of many Hong Kong martial arts blockbusters and by far 
the biggest "name" in the film plays Li Mu Bai, the Wu Dan master.

However, his character is relegated to an almost supportive role in the 
film to the two female leads, Michelle Yeoh (Yu Shu Lien) and Zhang Ziyi 
(Jen) around whom the story, and most of the action centres.

Chang Chen is instantly endearing as the fierce barbarian outlaw Lo.

Crouching Tiger pushes new boundaries for the martial arts genre. It 
breaks the "trail of bloody corpses" stereotype of the Hong Kong films and 
honours the true philosophy of martial arts  the search for peace and 
harmony.

Warriors Mu Bai and Shu Lien continually lower their swords in the face of 
their enemies, offering peaceful resolution to their conflicts.

Crouching Tiger is an intensely sensuous film, a clever balance 
between dramatic and action thriller that will transcend the "subtitled 
film" cringe to go somersaulting through the air into an appreciative 
mainstream audience.

Crouching Tiger is now showing in major cinemas.

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