Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

It's hard to imagine a more unexpected hit in 2000 than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon but the film surpassed all expectations, and a mainstream movie-going audience which at that point was far less accepting of foreign films, becoming both a critical and box office smash. Adapted from the novel, the film centers around renowned Wudang swordsman Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) and his longtime ally Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) as well as the governor's daughter Jen (Ziyi Zhang) who is secretly the apprentice of the villainous Jade Fox (Pei-Pei Cheng) and her love for desert bandit named Lo (Chang Chen).

Events are set in motion by Li Mu Bai giving up his fabled sword and suggesting he may be ready to explore the feelings he and Shu Lien have shared but never acted on. However, the theft of the sword by Jen quickly changes the course of the film eventually forcing Shu Lien in an impossible position as well as bringing about a final confrontation between Li Mu Bai and Jade Fox.

The film is a sweeping epic with some amazing cinematography but at its heart its a character-driven tragedy that does as well with small character beats as it does in the elaborate wire stunts which bring a magical realism to the film. We also get some great action including a terrific battle between Shu Lien and Jen. The performances of Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, and Ziyi Zhang are also top-notch as the film explores various themes including gender norms, passion and desire, and honor.

In a strong year that also included Wonder Boys, Almost Famous, Gladiator, and Chocolat, Crouching Tiger took home 4 Academy Awards, a Saturn Award, a Critics Choice Award, a Director's Guild Award, a Satellite Award, a Grammy, three Independent Spirit Awards, two Golden Globes, four BAFTAs, and the honors of several critics groups around the country including the Kansas City Film Critics Circle. The film also introduced the idea of the wuxia genre to Western audiences leading to more films such as Hero and House of Flying Daggers getting American distribution deals.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • IMDb: link

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