Tuesday, April 12, 2011


(December 2000, U.S.)

Before getting into this, I should make it clear that I do NOT enjoy martial arts films at all. The fighting has always looked about as real to me as so-called professional wrestling, the fighters are always shouting too much and despite all of the hits and violence, no one ever really seems to get hurt. It's this reason that I've never bothered to see a Bruce Lee film. It's this reason that I consider the KILL BILL movies the low point in Quentin Tarantino's career. It's also the reason, that regardless, I can have genuine affection for CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, the only martial arts film in my collection. This is not your typical martial arts film, though. This Mandarin film features fighting choreography that can only be callled brilliant, and this is before we begin discussing the magicical element behind it all.

Perhaps the "magic" I refer to can first be accredited to THE MATRIX (1999) just one year earlier, but in this film we are asked to suspend our disbelief and embrace the magic as a very real part of the film, whereas THE MATRIX's reality is questioned throughout. Our heroes and villians in this film scale walls, leap over rooftops and fly through trees during the many fighting sequences. There is awesome imagination and beauty in this and after a very short time it all seems more than believable to the viewer. But unlike the traditional martial arts film, this one also features true love between couples who seemed destined to never be together. Particularly noteworthy is the backflash sequence when we learn the origin and story of Jen Yu's true love for a common desert bandit. But because she derives from nobility, she must be forced to marry into a powerful family and true love will not prevail. Oh, did I also mention she's secretly a real killer bitch with her fists and a sword? It is a sword, by the way, called the Green Destiny that serves as the heart of the story here. Who will ultimately possess it and who will ultimately triumph over it? Watch and see.

It should be noted that CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON was responsible for a boost in popularity of Chinese wuxia films in the western world, where they were previously little known, and led to films such as HERO (2002) and HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS (2004) marketed towards western audiences. I haven't seen either of those two examples.

Favorite line or dialgoue:

Jen Yu: "You want to know who I am? I am...I am the Invincible Sword Goddess, armed with the Green Destiny that knows no equal! Be you Li or Southern Crane, bow your head and ask for mercy! I am the dragon from the desert! Who comes from nowhere and leaves no trace! Today I fly over Eu-Mei. Tomorrow...I topple Mount Wudan!"

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