And antithetical to the Baby Boomer ethic of self actualization, in "Dragon," the old not only try to guide the young, they sacrifice themselves for the good of the next generation. What's most pleasantly surprising about Crouching Tiger is how emotionally involved in the characters' stories you get. The denial of such things, by Jen, Li Mu Bai, and his master, is what corrodes the bonds between humans and leads to war, both in personal terms and on a global scale. This, it was hoped, would be the film to crack the formula.
As the film begins, Li Mu Bai is preparing to give up his life as a master swordsman and fighter, which he symbolizes by handing over his Green Destiny Sword, a mighty, mystical weapon which he was gifted by his slain master. This, it was hoped, would be the film to crack the formula. By way of comparison Jackie Chan's latest, Accidental Spy, has racked up almost twice as much in Hong Kong in its first three weeks. The fight scenes are usually longer, more frequent and more technically skilled Michelle Yeoh was the only real martial arts expert in Crouching Tiger. Zhang Ziyi is wonderfully self assured in her first major role, and is even able to match up in the fight scenes with her two elders, Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh, who are masters at this sort of thing. Further, any intervals between fights are filled either with slapstick comedy or rapid-fire exposition, so as to cram in the extravagantly complex plotlines. Hong Kong legend Run Run Shaw-- who gave Bruce Lee his big screen opportunity-- did this kind of thing 30 and 40 years ago. And then came Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon , with its combination of eastern philosophy and fighting, and western dramatic gravity. He is reportedly trying to push the boundaries of the genre even further, in response to the success of Crouching Tiger. It recently received two Golden Globes, and is among this year's Oscar favourites. That said, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is a captivating, thoroughly enjoyable, romantic romp that features the best single 20 minute action scene in many moons. From the Asian side, only Jackie Chan has that world-beating potential. So Lee didn't quite crack the global formula, but he is not the first Chinese auteur to be feted in the west and ignored at home. The fact that it has moved UP in the charts the longer it has been out, proves that word of mouth from pleased customers is the best marketing plan. Most importantly, the screenplay was in continual ping-pong between James Schamus and two Chinese scriptwriters, teasing out cross-cultural resonances from the source text: Elements of the film were undoubtedly selected with western appeal in mind, however: And antithetical to the Baby Boomer ethic of self actualization, in "Dragon," the old not only try to guide the young, they sacrifice themselves for the good of the next generation. The fight scenes are choreographed with exquisite grace by Yuen Woo-ping, whose work on The Matrix had wowed audiences the previous year. The scenery, taking in Qing-dynasty Beijing, the ghost city of Xinjiang and other extraordinary Chinese locations, is magnificent. Lee, who is known for exactingly recreating real times and places in movies like "Sense and Sensibility" and the under rated Civil War gem, "Ride with the Devil," does a wonderful job in making these more fanciful setting seem real. Working from a script by James Schamus, Tsai Kuo Jung, and Wang Hui-Ling, Lee subtly suggests that the legends of great warriors were, and remain, masculine fantasies, but his skepticism does not calcify into pure, simplistic cynicism. James Schamus, Crouching Tiger's co-writer and executive producer, is quick to defend it: The denial of such things, by Jen, Li Mu Bai, and his master, is what corrodes the bonds between humans and leads to war, both in personal terms and on a global scale. Back on home territory, however, the reaction has been decidedly mixed. But, if anything, the reverse has been true.
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