One of cinema’s greatest moments, Ang Lee’s film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has already achieved the status of classic and would probably have made a clean sweep at the Oscars, instead of winning just four, had Gladiator and Traffic not been in contention in the same year, dividing the Academy. It has since gone on to become the biggest cross-over martial arts film ever.
The story centres on legendary warriors Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien (martial arts films veterans Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh), who become involved in the theft of the legendary sword Green Destiny. Also caught up in the mystery is the city mayor’s seemingly demure daughter Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi) and Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-Pei), the villainess who killed Li Mu Bai’s master and stole the mysterious secrets of their martial arts lore. In addition, Jen Yu is hiding secrets from her father – her covert bandit lover, Black Cloud (Chang Chen), and her mastery of martial arts.
The film is set in a mythical China, based on Wang Du Lu’s successful early 20th century novel. As well as the stars, the movie’s success comes from Peter Pau’s breathtaking, Oscar-winning cinematography, with every frame a sumptuous delight, and Yuen Wo-Ping’s special wire effects (he also worked on The Matrix) for the action scenes, including a stupendous rooftop and wall flight/fight, and a tree-top fight between Li Mu Bai and Jen Yu, with the actors themselves in action rather than stunt men and women.
The film is also a tale of the unrequited love between Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien, whose relationship offers some of the film’s most tender moments, while the villainous Jade Fox plays the protagonists off against each other.
Lee had to re-arrange his shooting schedule when Yeoh badly injured herself in an early action sequence and, while her leg healed, could only be shot from the waist up.
Cast: Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Cheng Pei-Pei, Sihung Lung, Fa Zeng Li, Su Ying Huang, Xian Gao, Yan Hai, De Ming Wang, Li Li
Director: Ang Lee
Writers: James Schamus, Wang Hui Ling, Tsai Kuo Jong, from Wang Du Lu’s novel
Original Author: Du Lu Wang
Producer: William Kong, Ang Lee, Li-Kong Hsu
Composer: Tan Dun
Director of Photography: Peter Pau
Production Companies: Sony Pictures Classics, China Film Co-Production Corporation, Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, Good Machine, EDKO Film, Asia Union Film & Entertainment Ltd., United China Vision, Zoom Hunt International Productions Company Ltd.
Release Date: 1 October 2000
Running Time: 120 minutes
Genres: Adventure, Drama, Action, Romance
Country: China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, United States of America
Tagline: A timeless story of strength, secrets and two warriors who would never surrender.