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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Ang Lee

The wuxia (literally “martial chivalry") genre, which combines complex stories about honour and loyalty, aspects of fantasy and romance, and plenty of elaborate fights scenes has been a hugely popular mainstay of Chinese, Hong Kong and Taiwanese cinema from the get go. In the west, however, classic wuxia films like A Touch of Zen or The One-Armed Swordsman never reached more than a cult audience. Then Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came along and showed everyone what they had been missing. 

“The film was justly a commercial and critical smash…”

Ang Lee’s visually breathtaking film had all the classic ingredients of the genre, including a period setting, a stolen magical sword, characters with almost superhuman abilities, and philosophical discussions about Buddhist ideals. But Lee, who had already worked in Hollywood for close to a decade, added a few twists designed to attract an international audience. His film features two tragic love stories, one between Cho Yun-Fat’s Master Li and Michelle Yoeh as his long-serving colleague, and the other between Zhang Zizi’s mischievous upstart and Chen Chang’s honourable outlaw. And then there is the jaw-dropping fight choreography by Yuen Woo-ping, who used the same combination of old-fashioned wire-work and state-of-the-art technology he brought to The Matrix the year before.

The film was justly a commercial and critical smash, which was nominated for ten Oscars (a record for a subtitled film), and won four (cinematography, music, art direction, and Best Foreign Language Film). It is also an all too rare example of popular entertainment and consummate artistry going hand in hand. 

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will be screened with English language captions for D/deaf and Hard of Hearing access, making it accessible for these communities as well as non-Mandarin speakers.