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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)



Reviews and Comments

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon may be the most beautiful film I've ever seen. It's an odd compliment to make for a martial arts action film, but to pigeonhole this into a single genre is to do it an injustice. This is also a bittersweet romance between two people who love each other but, for reasons of honor, do not feel they can act upon or even acknowledge it. This is a coming of age film for a rogue princess who teaches herself how to become a warrior and seeks to free herself from the roads of life society imposed upon her before she was born. This is an edge-of-the-seat action suspense film, packed with some of the most tense and captivating fight scenes ever filmed and some of the most creatively staged epic duals I've ever seen. This is a mythical fantasy, where mastery of combat permits one to fly and where one may leap from the top of a cliff to be granted one's heart's purest wish. This is a work of art, a painting that moves, a masterwork in which every frame, every motion, every sound fills the senses in harmony.

The greatness of the movie surprised me; the scope of the movie surprised me even more. Few movies attempt so much, even the ones that aim high and fail. One particular way in which this movie surprised me: this is the first martial arts movie I've ever seen in which the ability for the characters to "fly" never bothered me. Why? Because the movie was honest about it. At no time is it ever suggested that the characters are merely jumping high. At one point, Chow Yun-Fat's character even comes right out and says, "Been out flying tonight?" According to Chinese legend, master warriors possess the ability to fly. Since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon accepts that legend and asks us to believe in it, we may accept this -- in contrast with martial arts films that have their characters performing ridiculously implausible physical feats under the pretense that they're just that good. But not only may flying be accepted as part of the fantasy, it helps make this such a beautiful film. There are so many wonderful images I will never forget, not the least of which are the nighttime rooftop chase and the ballet of a fight scene in the treetops. In the film's first action scene, Michelle Yeoh combats a masked thief and must step on his or her feet to keep her opponent grounded. Without being anchored, I was convinced the thief would just float up into the air and away -- upon realizing this, I marvelled at how naturally I had accepted the movie's fantastical reality as if it were in complete accord with our own.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon earned several awards at the Oscars, including awards for Cinematography, Original Score, and Art Direction. This last award may never have gone to a more deserving candidate.