CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON: DVD
The title draws on an ancient Chinese saying that characterises situations wherein dwell
hidden heroes and legends – where nothing is as it seems. Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) is
a famous and renowned warrior, but he is unable to declare his love for Yu Shu Lien
(Michelle Yeoh) the woman, another warrior trained in the highest form of martial arts,
who herself conceals an inner turmoil and yearning that answers Li Mu Bai’s. When the
young princess Jen (Zhang Zi Yi) becomes involved in their world via an ancient sword,
symbol of the good and the bad in battles fought, a death-defying adventure begins. The
biggest threat is Jade Fox (Cheng Pei Pei) a feared fighter, with a mysterious link to
Jen, who herself becomes an outcast when she refuses to wed the man chosen for her,
falling in love with the outlaw Lo (Chang Chen) in the desert.
Noble warriors and undeclared love, an ancient sword and
mysterious societies are just some of the elements that make
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon so appealing and engaging, reaching
into the yearning we have for stories with meaning. It also
offers fabulously acrobatic action and exotic landscapes.
Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) is a famous and renowned warrior, unable
to declare his love for Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) the woman,
another warrior trained in the highest form of martial arts, who
herself conceals her interest in Li Mu Bai. When the young
princess Jen (Zhang Zi Yi) becomes involved in their world
through the disappearance of an ancient sword, a death-defying
adventure begins. The biggest threat to Li Mu Bai and Uy Shu Lien
is Jade Fox (Cheng Pei Pei) a feared fighter, with a mysterious
link to Jen, who herself becomes an outcast when she refuses to
wed the man chosen for her, falling in love with the outlaw Lo (Chang
Chen) in the desert.
You could almost build a metaphoric bridge between Star Wars and
this film, casting The Force as the mystical power of the martial
arts school which provides Yu Shu Lien and Li Mu Bai their powers
– and also powers the deadly Jade. On which side of The
Force will Jen end up is perhaps the Luke Skywalker question,
while Lo is a ready equivalent of Han Solo. There are also
parallels with the score, in that both make full sue of the
classical orchestra and are constructed on classic lines, using
powerful musical colours. To my mind, the score is a masterpiece.
I only speculate about this association as a potential (and
partial) explanation of the film’s exceptional acceptance by
Westerners, who usually resist foreignb language films with
subtitles. Behind Star Wars and behind Crouching Tiger Hidden
Dragon are the mythical stories we respond to. The high level
issues of humanity, like honour, loyalty, courage and a code of
behaviour that elevates us to genuine nobility are explored
through action and adventure.
Or it could be nothing more than a dramatic yet fun movie with
good stunts and exotic locations.
On DVD, the return experience of the film itself is just as
engaging. The qualities that Ang Lee and his team invest in this
work transcend the media on which it is consumed.
The extra features are revealing and entertaining. Like the
lengthy (12 minute) Michelle Yeoh interview in which she explains
she had devoted two years of her life to it, and how her
character differs from her private self…and what that is.
And then there is the unpretentious, humble Ang Lee, whose calm
honesty is at odds with his edgy adventureist filmmaking. In both
the making of feature and his commentary, his personality
enhances our enjoyment.
It is always evident when a DVD transfer has been made with care
and with the audience in mind. And like the official website, the
DVD is highly aware of – and serves - the digital age. It
uses graphics and music to involve and embrace the viewer in a
“Hi I’m Ang Lee..director of this crazy movie . . .”
is how the audio commentary begins, and it sets the tone for the
irreverent and entertaining session. It highlights the fact that
the film is primarily F.U.N. what you will also find is a
mountain of genuine value, engaging info (how was Beijing 300
years ago…) and riveting background that is like a second
layer of enjoyment added to the film. Without pretentions. Lee is
amusing with his self effacing explanations of scenes that he
describes as “a collection of clichees…” James
Schamus is no slouch, either, in the self effacing stakes.
Listening to them in this you’d think they weren’t up
themselves. Very refreshing.
This is one of my favourite films of recent times, and the DVD
lives up to the film. You should have it in your collection.
Andrew L. Urban
Published July 19, 2001
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HEAR our interview with Ang Lee
SOUNDTRACK REVIEW with
Read our FEATURE
CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (M)
CAST: Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Zi Yi, Chang Chen, Lung
Sihung, Cheng Pei Pei
DIRECTOR: Ang Lee
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: July 18, 2001
Widescreen 2.35:1 (16.9 enhanced)
Unleashing Dragons –
behind the scenes (20 mins)
Interview with Michelle Yeoh
commentary by director Ang Lee and producer James Schamus
Photo montage with music from soundtrack