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opening night of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Went to the opening night of Ang Lee‘s new film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It was the first time in I can’t remember how long that I went to the opening night of a film and I have to say it was well worth it!
What a tremendous film! This film has completely supplanted all the other films I love as my favorite film. I can’t even begin to explain how wonderful it was to watch the beauty of China, of the actors, of the choreography, etc. It was everything I expected from a film by Ang Lee starring people like Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh, with fight choreography by Yuen Wo Ping, and Yo-Yo Ma playing cello.
The new female martial artist actor, Zhang Ziyi, is a complete revelation. I was stunned by her beauty and her movements. There were too many amazing fight sequences to pick out a favorite, but the sequence between Shu Lien (Yeoh) and Jen (Ziyi) was so inspiring. There was one image from that fight sequence shot from above as the two actresses were twirling like tops- it was like two disks of blurs spinning right next to each other with the odd fist and foot striking out from time to time.
Another scene I was mesmerized by was the fight in the restaurant when Jen totally kicks everyone’s ass all over the place. There was one part of that scene which was reminiscent of The Killer where the Chow Yun Fat character is walking through an apartment killing people with his twin pistols. The cinematography was similar enough that I was reminded of the similarity of the scenes.
I feel like I need to watch more old kung fu films in order to understand where this genre came from. I’ve seen Enter the Dragon but I hear that isn’t the pinnacle of the genre. I have to rent the older classics like Jackie Chan’s Legend of Drunken Master, Tai Chi Master with Yeoh and Bruce Lee’s Fists of Fury.
Also, the scenes from the Gobi Desert were incredible! I guess I knew how large China was but to see those expanses of wilderness was really inspiring. I hope to visit the Gobi one day myself.
One reason why I think this movie is going to be so impactful over time is that it goes in so many new directions with so many old themes and genres. While I really loved the action of the early 90’s HK cinema, the female perspective was close to nil.
Crouching Tiger celebrates the women in the film more than the men, imo, and to do that within the scope of this martial arts action adventure epic. The “3 generations of female martial arts actresses” (Ziyi, Yeoh, and Cheng Pei-Pei as “Jade Fox”) represented in “Tiger” are a testament to Lee’s having created a very new kind of martial arts movie- one where the women are more menacing and fierce than the men. The incredible restaurant scene is yet another facet of this new perspective.
A final thought about some of the reviews (most of which were very positive) was that more than one critic wished for a stronger portrayal of the love between Shu Lien and Li Mu Bai. I think that the fact that the love is unfulfilled is classically Asian in nature and fits the story well, especially when the love between Lo and Jen is consummated. Asking for a Western portrayal of the love between the main characters is to be ignorant of the strength of the culture in older Asian society.
Salon‘s review of the movie.

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