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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Directed by Ang Lee
Produced by Li-Kong Hsu
William Kong
Ang Lee
see article
Written by Wang Du Lu (book)
Hui-Ling Wang
James Schamus
Kuo Jung Tsai
Starring Chow Yun-Fat
Michelle Yeoh
Zhang Ziyi
Chang Chen
Music by Tan Dun
Cinematography Peter Pau
Editing by Tim Squyres
Distributed by Hong Kong Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) France May 16, 2000 (premiere at Cannes)
Hong Kong July 6, 2000
Republic of China July 7, 2000
Thailand September 22, 2000
Canada December 15, 2000
United States December 22, 2000
New Zealand December 26, 2000
Australia January 4, 2001
United Kingdom January 5, 2001
Argentina February 15, 2001
Running time 120 minutes
Language Mandarin
Budget $15,000,000 US (est.)
Gross revenue Domestic:
$128,078,872
WorldWide:
$213,525,736

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (simplified Chinese: 卧虎藏龙traditional Chinese: 臥虎藏龍pinyin: Wòhǔ Cánglóng) is a Chinese-language film in the wuxia (chivalric and martial arts) style, released in 2000. A China-Hong Kong-Taiwan-United States co-production, the film was directed by Ang Lee and featured an international cast of ethnic Chinese actors, including Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen. The movie was based on the fourth novel in a pentalogy, known in China as the Crane-Iron Pentalogy, by wuxia novelist Wang Dulu. The martial arts and action sequences were choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping, well known for his work in The Matrix and other films.

Made on a mere US$15 million budget, with dialogue in Mandarin, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon became a surprise international success. After its US premiere at the Hawaii International Film Festival, it grossed US$128 million in the United States alone,[1] becoming the highest-grossing foreign-language film in American history. It has won over 40 awards. The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (Taiwan) and three other Academy Awards, and was nominated for six other Academy Awards, including Best Picture.[2] The film also won three BAFTAs and two Golden Globes, one for "Best Foreign Film" as well as additional nominations for ten BAFTAs including "Best Picture".

Contents

Plot

The film begins during the historic Qing Dynasty in China, in the 43rd year of Emperor Qianlong's reign (1778).[3]. Li Mu-bai (Chinese: 李慕白) (Chow Yun-Fat) is an accomplished Wudang swordsman. Long ago, his master was murdered by Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-pei), a woman who sought to learn Wudang skills. Mu-bai is also a good friend of Yu Shu-lien (Chinese: 俞秀蓮) (Michelle Yeoh), a female warrior. Mu-bai and Shu-lien have developed feelings for each other, but have never acknowledged or acted on them.

Mu-bai, intending to give up his warrior life, and asks Shu-lien to transport his sword, the Green Destiny, to Peking, as a gift to their friend Sir Te. At Sir Te's estate, Shu-lien meets Jen (simplified Chinese: 玉娇龙traditional Chinese: 玉嬌龍pinyin: Yù Jiāolóng) (Zhang Ziyi), the daughter of Governor Yu, a visiting Manchu aristocrat. Jen, destined for an arranged marriage and yearning for adventure, seems envious of Shu-lien's warrior lifestyle.

Later that evening, a masked thief sneaks onto Sir Te's estate and steals the Green Destiny. The acrobatic thief skillfully avoids the guards while being pursued by Shu-lien across the estate's rooftops and walls. After a fight with Shu-lien, the thief escapes; Shu-lien observes, with surprise, that the thief knows Wudang.

Mu-bai and Shu-lien trace the theft to Governor Yu's compound and learn that Jade Fox has been posing as Jen's governess for many years. Mu-bai makes the acquaintance of Inspector Tsai, a police investigator from the provinces, and his daughter May, who have come to Peking in pursuit of Jade Fox. Jade Fox challenges Tsai, May, and Sir Te's servant Master Bo to a showdown; she kills Tsai and is on the verge of defeating the others when Mu-Bai arrives and outmaneuvers Jade Fox. Then, the masked thief reappears and fights with Mu-Bai, again using Wudang techniques. Jade Fox and the thief (who turns out to be Jade Fox's protegée, Jen) escape. After seeing Jen fight Mu-Bai, Jade Fox realizes that Jen had secretly read her Wudang manual and surpassed her in skill.

Later, Jen puts on her thief's mask and attempts to return the Green Destiny to Sir Te's compound. Mu-Bai catches her in the act, and the two fight. Mu-Bai defeats Jen but offers to make her his apprentice. She refuses and escapes.

At night, a desert bandit named Lo (Chinese: 羅小虎) (Chang Chen) breaks into Jen's bedroom and asks her to leave with him. A flashback reveals that in the past, when Governor Yu and his family were traveling in the western deserts, Lo and his bandits had raided Jen's caravan and stolen her comb. Jen chased after him to get it back; Lo defeated and kidnapped her. However, they soon fell passionately in love. Lo eventually convinced Jen to return to her family, though not before telling her a legend of a man who jumped off of a cliff to make his wishes come true. Because the man's heart was pure, he did not die.

Lo has come to Beijing to persuade Jen not to go through with her arranged marriage. However, Jen refuses to leave with him. Lo interrupts Jen's wedding procession, begging her to come away with him; the guards chase him away. Mu-bai and Shu-lien convince Lo to wait for Jen at Wudan Mountain, where he will be safe from Jen's family, who are surely angry at him.

Before her wedding night, Jen runs away, stealing the Green Destiny in the process. She is at a crossroads: should she be a court official's wife, the lover of a desert bandit, an outlaw under Jade Fox, or a martial artist under Li Mu-bai? Headstrong and enjoying her new power, Jen fights a large group of armed men in a restaurant, almost destroying the building in the process.

Still confused, Jen visits Shu-lien, who tells her that Lo is waiting for her at Wudang Mountain. Jen is outraged, thinking that Shu-lien is setting her up. Shu-lien is angry at Jen's lack of gratitude, and says that she always knew Jen was the thief, but covered it up for the sake of Jen's family. The two women fight, and it becomes clear that Shu-lien has better technique but Jen has the better sword. Mu-bai arrives and pursues Jen into a bamboo forest. He again offers to train her and she says that she will accept him as her master if he can take the Green Destiny from her in three moves. To Jen's surprise, Mu-bai snatches the sword from her hand in a single movement. When Jen still refuses to become Mu-bai's pupil, he throws the Green Destiny over a waterfall. Jen dives into the river after the sword, and Mu-bai is too shocked to pursue her.

Jen retrieves the sword and is rescued by Jade Fox. She puts Jen into a drugged sleep and leaves her in a cavern; Mu-bai and Shu-lien find her there. Jade Fox suddenly reappears and attacks the others with poisoned darts. Mu-Bai blocks the needles with his sword and avenges his master's death by mortally wounding Jade Fox, only to realize that one of the darts hit him in the neck. Jade Fox dies, confessing that her goal had been to kill Jen, because she was furious that Jen hid the secrets of Wudan from her.

As Jen runs off to try to find an antidote for the poisoned dart, Mu-bai prepares to die. With his last breaths, he finally confesses his love for Shu-lien, and dies in her arms. Jen returns too late to save him. Shu-lien, heartbroken and furious at the trouble Jen has caused, almost cuts her with the Green Destiny. However, she realizes that Jen has a chance to find the love that she herself never enjoyed, so she spares Jen's life, instructing her to always remain true to herself. The Green Destiny is sent back to Sir Te.

Jen goes to Wudang Mountain and spends one last night with Lo. The next morning, Lo finds Jen standing on a balcony overlooking the edge of the mountain. In an echo of the legend that they spoke about in the desert, she asks him to make a wish. He complies, wishing for them to be together, back in the desert, and Jen leaps into the clouds.

Themes and Interpretations

Fighting and Submitting to Patriarchy

In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, resistance to gender inequality is a central theme that sets the plot in motion and drives the story forward. In a storyline that begins prior to the timeline of the movie, Jade Fox is denied entry to the Wudan monastery because she is a woman. Intent on learning the secrets of Wudang fighting style, she poisons the master and steals a manual to learn Wudang on her own.

The three main female characters represent different points on the spectrum of their relation to patriarchy. There is Jade Fox, whose bitterness against the limitations of a male-dominated society has resulted in her open revolt, although with cowardly fighting style (her use of poisonous arrows is the primary example for this). Jen, the young woman at the verge of her wedding is still wavering, battling between her desire to be accepted and respected by her family and society and her wish to be free[4]. Both Jade Fox and Jen are regarded as women whose desire to be free has led to out-of control actions that threaten the male-dominated hierarchy[5]. Finally, there is Shu-lien. Although she lives the life of a warrior, Shu-lien adheres strictly to the moral codes and traditions of the patriarchal society she lives in. She respects male privilege[6] and constantly attempts to persuade Jen to conform to society’s expectations[6]. Although she, too, has desires that seem impossible to be fulfilled (her love for Li Mu-Bai), she does not challenge the limitations of this desire and so supports the dominant power structure[6].

Male supremacy in martial arts is secured by excluding women from its highest forms,[7] and the weapons used represent this exclusion. In some interpretations, the fact that the sword Green Destiny is passed along men, and is with exception of Jen used only by male figures shows that the sword is a symbol of masculinity and male authority[8]. Jen’s desire to use the sword, and her theft of it, thus also represents her wish to attain both the freedom and the power Li Mu-Bai has[9]. When she steals it, she not only takes possession of an invaluable sword, but poses a direct threat to the male authority and martial hegemony that is associated with the sword[7]. Shu-lien reacts to the theft by pursuing Jen and attempting to regain the sword for Li Mu-Bai. While she does so in part because she promises to find the sword, and because it belongs to the man she loves, she is again implicitly reaffirming the status quo of male dominance by retrieving the primary representation of male power for them.

The deaths of the main characters are similarly considered to be affirmations of the patriarchal structures of society. Most clearly, here is the death of Jade Fox, whose cruelty – a reaction to the confines of women in society – are rewarded with death by Li Mu-Bai, the prime representative of patriarchy in this film. Subsequently, Li Mu-Bai himself dies of the poisonous needle Jade Fox shot at him. However, this does not signify the death of patriarchy by any means: it can almost be considered a sacrifice in order to bring Jen to her senses[10]. His death fills Jen with regret, as his attempt to save her put him in danger and ultimately killed him. The film ends with Jen’s suicide, which can be seen as an act of repentance[11] and punishment for the desires that lead her astray[11]. The suicide also signifies the hopelessness of Jen’s quest for freedom. She realizes that marriage would confine her, the freedom she attempted killed someone, and her love for Lo would require her to give up the personal freedom she always wanted[12].

Poison

Poison is also a significant theme in this movie, both literally and figuratively. In the world of martial arts, poison is considered the act of one who is too cowardly and dishonorable to fight; and indeed, the only character that explicitly fits these characteristics is Jade Fox. The poison is a weapon of her bitterness[13] and quest for vengeance: she poisons the master of Wudang, attempts to poison Jen and succeeds in killing Li Mu-Bai. However, the poison is not only of the physical sort: Jade Fox’s tutelage of Jen has left Jen spiritually poisoned, which can be seen in the lying, stealing and betrayal Jen commits. Even though she is the one who initially trained Jen, Jen is never seen to use poison herself. This indicates that there is hope yet to reform her and integrate her into society.

Hiding and Revealing

The title Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon actually refers to a Chinese proverb which means "talented or dangerous people hidden from view". In the course of this film, there are many things that are hidden and revealed. Most obviously, the title refers to Jen, who is at first sight an innocent young girl in the house of Yu. She hides her identity as a martial arts fighter. When Li Mu-Bai first encounters her, he seeks to learn who her master is; only later is it revealed that she taught herself the secrets of the Wudang school. This fact was also hidden from her governess, who had taught her the basics of fighting. When it is revealed to Jade Fox, she sees this as a betrayal and attempts to kill Jen. Jade Fox, too, is a dangerous person hidden from view. She conceals herself in the house of Yu to avoid being arrested, and reveals herself only to kill. Finally, there are also Mu-Bai and Shu-lien’s feelings which remained hidden over years, and are only openly admitted when Mu-Bai is dying and they can no longer be fulfilled.

Production and marketing

Although its Academy Award was presented to Taiwan, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was in fact an international co-production between companies in four regions: the Chinese company China Film Co-Production Corporation; the American companies Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, Sony Pictures Classics and Good Machine; the Hong Kong company EDKO Film; and the Taiwanese Zoom Hunt International Productions Company, Ltd; as well as the unspecified United China Vision, and Asia Union Film & Entertainment Ltd., created solely for this film.

The film was made in Beijing, with location shooting in the Anhui, Hebei, Jiangsu and Xinjiang provinces of the People's Republic of China.

Unlike most Chinese films, this one was supported by American distributors and therefore received marketing typical of Western films. It opened first in China and made its US premiere as the opening film of the 2000 Hawaii International Film Festival.[14]

The movie was also adapted into a video game.

Reception and aftermath

The film was screened out of competition at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.[15]

Crouching Tiger was very well received in the Western world, receiving critical acclaim and numerous awards. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 97% of critics gave Crouching Tiger positive reviews, based on 141 reviews,[16] while Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 93 out of 100, based on 31 reviews.[17]

Some Chinese-speaking viewers were bothered by the accents of the leading actors. Neither Chow (a native Cantonese speaker) nor Yeoh (an overseas Chinese born and raised in Malaysia) speaks Mandarin as a mother tongue. All four main actors spoke with different accents: Chow speaks with a Cantonese accent[18]; Yeoh with a Malaysian accent; Chang Chen a Taiwanese accent; and Zhang Ziyi a Beijing accent. Yeoh responded to this complaint in a December 28, 2000 interview with Cinescape. She argued that "My character lived outside of Beijing, and so I didn't have to do the Beijing accent". When the interviewer, Craig Reid, remarked that "My mother-in-law has this strange Szechuan-Mandarin accent that's hard for me to understand", Yeoh responded: "Yes, provinces all have their very own strong accents. When we first started the movie, Cheng Pei Pei was going to have her accent, and Chang Zhen was going to have his accent, and this person would have that accent. And in the end nobody could understand what they were saying. Forget about us, even the crew from Beijing thought this was all weird".[19]

The film led to a boost in popularity of Chinese wuxia films in the western world, where they were previously little known, and led to films such as House of Flying Daggers and Hero marketed towards western audiences. The film also provided the breakthrough role for Zhang Ziyi's career, who noted that:

Because of movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Hero and Memoirs of a Geisha, a lot of people in the United States have become interested not only in me but in Chinese and Asian actors in general. Because of these movies, maybe there will be more opportunities for Asian actors".

The film also ranks at number 497 on Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time, and at number 220 on IMDB's user voted Top 250 Films.[20][21]

The character of Lo, or "Dark Cloud," the desert bandit, influenced the development of the protagonist of the Prince of Persia series of video games".[22]

Awards

Won

Nominations

  • Academy Awards:[2]
    • Best Picture (Murphy)
    • Best Director (Ang Lee)
    • Best Adapted Screenplay (Hui-Ling Wang, James Schamus and Kuo Jung Tsai)
    • Best Costume Design (Timmy Yip)
    • Best Editing (Tim Squyres)
    • Best Original Song (Jorge Calandrelli, Tan Dun [composers] and James Schamus [lyricist] Coco Lee [performer]) - for the song "A Love Before Time"
  • Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films ("Saturn Award"): Best Actor (Yun-Fat Chow), Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh), Best Supporting Actress (Ziyi Zhang), Best Director (Ang Lee), Best Writing (Hui-Ling Wang, James Schamus and Kuo Jung Tsai), Best Music (Tan Dun and Yo-Yo Ma), Best Costumes (Timmy Yip)
  • Amanda Awards (Norway): Best Foreign Feature Film
  • American Cinema Editors ("Eddie Award"): Best Edited Feature Film - Dramatic (Tim Squyres)
  • American Society of Cinematographers: Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases
  • Art Directors Guild: Excellence in Production Design Award Feature Film - Period or Fantasy Films
  • BAFTA Awards:
    • Best Film
    • Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh)
    • Best Supporting Actress (Ziyi Zhang)
    • Best Screenplay - Adapted (James Schamus, Hui-Ling Wang and Kuo Jung Tsai)
    • Best Cinematography (Peter Pau)
    • Best Editing (Tim Squyres)
    • Best Sound (Drew Kunin, Reilly Steele, Eugene Gearty and Robert Fernandez)
    • Best Production Design (Timmy Yip)
    • Best Make Up/Hair (Yun-Ling Man and Siu-Mui Chau)
    • Best Special Visual Effects (Rob Hodgson, Leo Lo, Jonathan F. Styrlund, Bessie Cheuk and Travis Baumann)
  • Blockbuster Entertainment Awards: Favorite Action Team [Internet Only] (Yun-Fat Chow and Michelle Yeoh)
  • British Society of Cinematographers: Best Cinematography Award (Peter Pau)
  • Broadcast Film Critics Association: Best Picture

See also

References

  1. ^ "Business Data for Wo hu cang long (2000)". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0190332/business. Retrieved 2007-01-15. "Gross: $128,067,808 (USA) (29 July 2001) (sub-total)"  
  2. ^ a b c Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Academy Award Nominations and Wins URL accessed December 30, 2006.
  3. ^ casting annonces musicien communication evenementiel at castingforge.com
  4. ^ Kenneth Chan, “The Global Return of the Wu Xia Pian: Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in Cinema Journal, Vol. 43, No. 4., p. 9
  5. ^ Rong Cai, “Gender Imaginations in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” positions vol. 13 no.2 (Fall 2005), p. 452
  6. ^ a b c Rong Cai, “Gender Imaginations in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” positions vol. 13 no.2 (Fall 2005), p. 455
  7. ^ a b Rong Cai, “Gender Imaginations in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” positions vol. 13 no.2 (Fall 2005), p. 451
  8. ^ Rong Cai, “Gender Imaginations in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” positions vol. 13 no.2 (Fall 2005), p. 450
  9. ^ Kenneth Chan, “The Global Return of the Wu Xia Pian: Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in Cinema Journal, Vol. 43, No. 4., p. 12
  10. ^ Kenneth Chan, “The Global Return of the Wu Xia Pian: Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in Cinema Journal, Vol. 43, No. 4., p.13
  11. ^ a b Rong Cai, “Gender Imaginations in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” positions vol. 13 no.2 (Fall 2005), p. 456
  12. ^ Kenneth Chan, “The Global Return of the Wu Xia Pian: Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in Cinema Journal, Vol. 43, No. 4., p. 14
  13. ^ Horace L. Fairlamb, “Romancing the Tao: How Ang Lee Globalized Ancient Chinese Wisdom,” symploke vol. 15, No. 1-2 (2007), p.196
  14. ^ http://www.hawaiireporter.com/story.aspx?f943c058-5936-47dc-ab5c-91df436a68fb
  15. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". festival-cannes.com. http://www.festival-cannes.com/en/archives/ficheFilm/id/10532/year/2000.html. Retrieved 2009-10-17.  
  16. ^ "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/crouching_tiger_hidden_dragon/. Retrieved 2008-07-21.  
  17. ^ "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000): Reviews". Metacritic. http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/crouchingtigerhiddendragon. Retrieved 2008-07-21.  
  18. ^ Interview with Gong Li URL accessed December 30, 2006.
  19. ^ http://www.mania.com/crouching-tigress-michelle-yeoh-part-2_article_17707.html
  20. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0190332/
  21. ^ http://www.empireonline.com/500/1.asp
  22. ^ "Prince of Persia: Anatomy of a Prince", PlayStation: The Official Magazine 13 (December 2008): 50.

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