Saturday, February 12, 2011

best films: #12: CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (2000)

Previously ranked and blogged at #9

Perhaps an odd choice, to some, for a top 10 placement on an all-time list, but I've always found this film nothing short of amazing.  It has its romanticized versions of what tales time has told, but its such a windswept visual and aural spectacle of a movie, it has to be considered "great."  Just think back to the year 2000 (I know, quite a stretch - it's been so long), and try to remember how much hoopla this Ang Lee-directed flick mustered up (I still think it was robbed of the Best Picture Oscar... oops - just gave away that Gladiator is not coming up on the list).  The obvious key to the movie's success is its incredible art direction and visual effects.  The swordplay and airborne fight scenes have been mimicked a million times over since.  There is hardly another movie that can match the beauty of the landscapes we're looking at here, either.  From Wudan Mountain's pristine greens and fog, to the vast rooftop scene mid-fight with the mysterious masked bandit (that rooftop scene has got to rank among the all-time greats in moviedom), Lee's masterpiece is so stinking beautiful I can hardly stand it.  Even the swords are beautiful.  The Green Destiny is certainly a prize, so it's understandable why so many martial arts masters are interested in wielding it.

But amongst these insane visuals and luscious music (the Tan Dun-penned score as performed by Yo-Yo Ma is officially iconic) is a truly compelling story that's as old as the traditions being implemented in the fight scenes.  What no one likely thought would happen going into the movie, especially considering it starred well-known martial arts gurus Michelle Yeoh and Chow-Yun Fat, was that the best and most interesting performance would come from newcomer (and now international celebrity) Zhang Ziyi.  Playing an aristocratic girl yearning for something more, better, and exciting, she gives a top-notch performance that was criminally under-awarded at year's end.  Yeoh and Fat buoy the film with there decades-spanning love story, but Ziyi steals the show, particularly in an expertly choreographed fight scene involving a certain comb.  Odds are it's been a while since you watched Crouching Tiger, so I beseech you:  re-watch it, and bask in its glorious glow.


Robert said...

Awesome! This totally belongs on any top 10 list. I think it'd probably end up somewhere on my top 10 of all time as well. Like you said it's just unbelievably beautiful and everything about it is amazing. I can't even put into words how much I love this movie....darn you Gladiator!

Unknown said...

I love this movie so much. I was at the movies the other day and this Puma ad with Michelle Yeoh came out and I was like "I need to watch CTHD! ASAP!".
It's just so romantic and sad and it really made me want to learn martial arts for a while.

Luke said...

Ahhh... I'm loving the validation. I can never tell if people simply forgot about this movie or altogether disliked it. Turns out it's neither!