Last week, President Obama hosted the President of China in an official state visit that was capped off with an elegant state dinner that, of course, included the first ladies of both countries. Although diplomatic relations with China are a bit fragile right now, it is clear that American audiences are not ambivalent about movies celebrating Chinese martial arts. This year, like just about every year, there have been several action movies with big martial arts sequences. For one of the most acclaimed martial arts films of all-time, there is “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” which was released in 2000.
In “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” Master Li Mu Bai (played by Chow Yun Fat) has long been in love with Yu Shu Lien (played by Michelle Yeoh), also a veteran warrior, but has never been able to do anything about it. He asks her to give his valuable sword, the Green Destiny, to a friend as a gift. He is ready to give up his warrior life as many people have died by the sword. Lien gives the sword to the friend. She meets Jen (played by Ziyi Zhang), who is a governor’s daughter who is set to be in an arranged marriage. Jen’s true love is Lo (played by Chen Chang), a bandit she met in the desert. Like Bai and Lien, she is a skilled warrior who has secretly been trained by Bai’s sworn enemy, Jade Fox (played by Pei-Pei Cheng), since she was a little girl.
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is masterfully directed by Ang Lee. He does a great job filming the elegant martial arts sequences, which are mesmerizing and almost dance-like.
The cast is impressive. Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh are both solid as wise, aging warriors who cannot be together. Ziyi Zhang is equally good as Jen, who is more naïve, but still a gifted fighter.
Even audiences who normally avoid martial arts films should consider“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” which breaks so many of the rules for the genre.