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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

To repress one's feelings only makes them stronger. 

Year: 2000 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Ang Lee 
Starring: Yun-Fat Chow, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang  
An image from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Review: Archive

During the Oscar race of 2001, it looked as if this Chinese film made by a very eclectic Chinese director would eat up many of the awards – if not for the fact that Gladiator and Traffic happened to be in competition too. The end result: the awards were split three ways between those films. At the same time, Chinese communities throughout the world were wondering why Westerners were so worked-up by this particular Chinese martial arts period drama ('wu xia pian').

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (taken literally from the Chinese title Wo Hu Cang Long, an expression meaning 'hidden talents') tells the story of Li Mu Bai (Chow), a warrior tired of his life of battles and deaths who decides to give up his legendary sword; Yu Shu Lien (Yeoh), the woman who loves him and whom he loves; Xiao Long (Ziyi), a young girl about to be married off but who yearns for the life of a warrior; and many other characters. With its blend of gravity- defying fights and quiet conversations in conservative ancient China, it's a wholly different world than that you see in your usual cinematic experience.

The film is very much Ang Lee's film, as it concerns balancing the extremes, forcing yin and yang to coexist together. Here the balance is between Western and Chinese filmmaking and storytelling styles. While it remains a very Chinese movie, in mentality and attitudes that may be lost to the average Western audience, the slow and subtle story-telling method is something that has not really been done in Chinese films before.

The acting is more reserved than usual for this kind of film. There are many scenes with graceful fight sequences; though this being a Chinese movie, don't expect special effects. The action is artfully choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping (The Matrix), and all the actors do their own stunts. When you see characters running up walls and pushing themselves into the air with their feet, the only special effects used were to remove the wires carrying Michelle Yeoh or Chow Yun-Fat.

Perhaps you've seen it, perhaps you haven't, but I'm pretty sure you've at least heard of this film. Do not miss.

Sebastian NG

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Screenings of this film:

2001/2002 Autumn Term (35mm)
2001/2002 Autumn Term (35mm)
2001/2002 Autumn Term (35mm)
2001/2002 Autumn Term (35mm)
2004/2005 Autumn Term (35mm)
2011/2012 Spring Term (35mm)