What better way to finish off this Wuxia-a-thon? The mack daddy of the modern day wuxia revival, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon garnered critical acclaim and accolades worldwide, including both the Oscar for Best Foreign Film and a nomination for Best Picture. What makes this film so special? It is unique, yes, but it is also a trailblazer, pure and simple, and like most other trailblazers it is so good as a whole that it spawned a host of imitators trying to recapture lightning in a bottle.
The film is very affecting, that I can say most about it; it’s not just a fight-em-up, there’s a love story (well, two really) that is the central core of the film, and it never loses sight of it. The production value is exceedingly well done, and like proper production value never feels opulent or hedonistic (unless the film itself calls for it, which this one doesn’t). All the main stars are not only capable fighters, they have real acting chops as well. Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, and all the supporting players are either very committed to their roles, or show a sensitivity and maturity in their acting that belies the nature of the film.
Ang Lee is a very sensitive director, and he shows his skill with bravado here. Lee would go on to direct Brokeback Mountain, another on the list, and even with the change of country and material he would lose none of his affection and grace in storytelling, all on display here as well. This is a standout example of the wuxia genre, and one that rightfully earns its many imitators who go on and try to match what the film does, without fully understanding it. Some may, I have yet to see them, but they all owe a debt to this magnificent film.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10