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Stephen Speicher

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Rate this movie   19 votes

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I very much enjoyed this movie and I have never quite understood many Objectivist's disdain for it. It is a tragedy and as such does not have a happy ending. Among the themes it explores are duty vs. rebelliousness and Platonic vs. Aristotelian love. I'm sure the fantasy and martial arts elements have put off some people but I quite enjoyed them. I think in the end despite being tragic the thrust of the movie is on the side of better values.

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I never knew Chinese people could fly. They weren't even flapping their arms very hard! What's their secret: are they full of helium??

Am I the ONLY person disturbed by such a huge, gaping, unexplained hole in the movie?

I did like the camera work. and Zhang Ziyi. And Michelle Yeoh. I always enjoy seeing strong women who wield swords. But shouldn't a movie make sense?

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I never knew Chinese people could fly.  They weren't even flapping their arms very hard!  What's their secret:  are they full of helium??

Well, this is a fantasy. Are you asking for the reason within the fantasy? Not everyone could fly, rather, individuals trained in the specific mystic martial arts had special powers. Ultimately it comes down to the magic that operates in the fantasy world. You might as well ask how Saruman controlled King Théoden in Lord of the Rings.
But shouldn't a movie make sense?

Sure. What part of it other than the flying did not make sense as far as you were concerned?

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I never knew Chinese people could fly.  They weren't even flapping their arms very hard!  What's their secret:  are they full of helium?? ...

Didn't you know Chinese people were magical?

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Yeah, LOTR is a good analogy. A leaping character in Crouching Tiger (or Hero for that matter) does not make any less sense than a fiery Eye that sits atop a mean-looking spire and combines the functions of a telepathic psychopath with those of a lighttower projector.

It's just a fantasy world, with fantasy rules, I don't take it for anything more than that.

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Very nice cinematography. It's a very nice movie to look at, with beautiful landscapes and well framed images.

But the story? Dull. Characters, dialogue... same.

Martial arts? Yawn. I don't get excited anymore by fight scenes, especially when they are done with special effects. If I know in advance that the action is real, then my attention is caught. For martial arts, nothing beats Bruce Lee. I get a kick out of Jackie Chan's Keystone Cops-like antics, but it gets really old after a while. For swordplay, I like the old swashbucklers, like Captain Blood.

So I give it a 5. If not for the cinematography, a 3.

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But the story?  Dull.  Characters, dialogue... same.

Martial arts?  Yawn.

That was my assessment as well. And I, too, was bothered by the unexplained ability of these people to fly.

I gave the movie a 2.

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That was my assessment as well. And I, too, was bothered by the unexplained ability of these people to fly.

That didn't bother me. I accepted that as part of the story's universe and let myself see where the story would go.

It didn't.

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That was the first time for me to see an Asian or "kung-fu flick" where people flew, it initially caught me off guard but if you watch the movie it makes sense because the people that can fly train in some special kind of martial arts that others do not. I don't understand why people keep getting hung up on this.

Do you not like ET because it was never explained just WHY the aliens even existed or were visiting in the first place?

Can you not look at it from the way Aristotle described theater: a play should be probable within its own context, but not impossible.

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Can you not look at it from the way Aristotle described theater:  a play should be probable within its own context, but not impossible.

The Matrix would qualify for that. Within its own context, I can grant Matrix-style fighting. But Crouching Tiger did not have anything to explain that sort of fighting or to make it necessary. It just seemed like a gimmick.

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That was the first time for me to see an Asian or "kung-fu flick" where people flew, it initially caught me off guard but if you watch the movie it makes sense because the people that can fly train in some special kind of martial arts that others do not.  I don't understand why people keep getting hung up on this.

Do you not like ET because it was never explained just WHY the aliens even existed or were visiting in the first place?

Can you not look at it from the way Aristotle described theater:  a play should be probable within its own context, but not impossible.

In the "Mary Poppins" movie, when they found Uncle Albert floating on the ceiling, it was explained: he was full of laughing gas! Did "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" ever offer an explanation for its flying Chinamen?

Speaking of "ET": if the aliens were smart enough to build a spacecraft, why weren't they smart enough to count noses, after they took off? Couldn't they realize someone was missing?

Fantasies can be fun. Let's just have fewer unnecessary lapses of logic, please.

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I've had a different reaction to this movie depending on what "philosophical stage" I was currently in. I need to re-watch it (now that I think differently than I did on the last two viewings) so that I can give it a proper rating.

**POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD MATEY(I SOOO needed a pirate emoticon there)**

What I know will not change in my reaction to this movie is that I always feel like the message is being driven down to never hesitate to pursue what you know to be the good in life because "you are wasting precious time" (I think that was the quote from a character:)).

It is curious though (someone slap me in the face and correct where necessary if I’m off the mark, it has been a while since I last saw this film) that Jen Yu’s fault was that she lived without self-restraint or discipline and was thus too spontaneous and reckless in her actions, which she suffered the consequences for; whereas Li Mu Bai was too restrained and reserved to pursue a romantic interest that he knew he should have, which he suffered the consequences for by dying before he was able to consummate his love for Yu Shu Lien.

Maybe we could take the movie to send the message that it is best to live lives of harmonious and healthy balance; that is, both within the bounds of reason and self-discipline while still holding onto a certain element of light-spirited spontaneity so as to avoid stagnation.... I don't know, I need to watch it again--soon.

All in all an extremely powerful and profound movie.

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Above all, I thought this film made beautiful use of color, locations, composition, and - at a minimum - lives up to as high a visual standard for film as I've ever seen. I also thought the acting by Michelle Yeoh was extraordinary, and the other actors were more than competent.

I was interested in the characters and their story, not at all bored. Though there is a sense in which my interest in, and sympathy for the characters made the film worse for me -- the reasons for which will be apparent in the section that contains spoilers.

Also, I have zero understanding of those who find a problem with the film being unrealistic. Yeah, it's unrealistic. It's an action fantasy drama adventure.

Ayn Rand said that Hitchcock "got away with" his romantic visual style in Hollywood by an emphasis on malevolence or horror. And I think this beautiful style was accepted in Hollywood because of the film's emphasis on mysticism.

SPOILERS FROM HERE:

The worst element of the film by far is the ending, the mysticism of which was a complete betrayal of the characters, as it was supposed to be. They are, presumably, according to the grotesque philosophy of the film, compensated for failing to get what they have earned on earth by the grace of merging with some supposed eternal mystic universe. An absolutely revolting end.

Yet the projection of a romantic sense-of-life is intensely projected throughout the film, in style and story, in complete opposition to the conscious mysticism.

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Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

They are, presumably, according to the grotesque philosophy of the film, compensated for failing to get what they have earned on earth by the grace of merging with some supposed eternal mystic universe.
I didn't get that at all, I thought the reason she died was that she finally learned to curb her haughtiness, and that she finally learned that people would suffer if she continued to misbehave so much. Except, when she finally learned this lesson, the person who suffered because of her actions meant so much to her that there was no point in living any longer. He was like a father to her, but even more than that, it seems. In any case, I didn't get any impressions about "merging with the universe after death", I thought the reasons for the ending were solely centered on this earth.

And the final "flight" scene was, to me, more of a stylized falling than flying really, just as the "flying" before was merely a stylization of walking.

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Also, I have zero understanding of those who find a  problem with the film being unrealistic.

This was not my objection.

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I didn't like it. I didn't care for the herione, her motivations, behavior, etc. I didn't like her romance. I don't care for the lead actress, for that matter either, and don't think she has one tenth of the class that Gong Li had as the leading Chinese actress. I thought the ending was bad, and quite unclear, as if to appear deep by muddying the water. To me, the movie came across as pseudo-profound, like a fortune cookie message. Incidentally, I haven't come across a Chinese person who liked the film. Most of the actors (Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh) are native Cantonese speakers, but the film had all Mandarin dialogue, and I was told that their accents were quite bad. My Chinese friends and family members suggested that the film was made to look like a local Chinese film, but it was actually aimed at foreign markets. I bought the dvd cheap a couple of years ago, thinking my Chinese in-laws might watch it, but they had no interest in seeing it again.

The flying people didn't bother me at all, however, and the special effects, fighting, and cinematography were the best elements of the film to me.

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Incidentally, I haven't come across a Chinese person who liked the film. Most of the actors (Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh) are native Cantonese speakers, but the film had all Mandarin dialogue, and I was told that their accents were quite bad. My Chinese friends and family members suggested that the film was made to look like a local Chinese film, but it was actually aimed at foreign markets. I bought the dvd cheap a couple of years ago, thinking my Chinese in-laws might watch it, but they had no interest in seeing it again.

I don't mean this to sound rude, but; so what?

How does that fact take away from the value of the movie?

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Part of the quality of a movie lies in its acting. If the actors speak their lines poorly in the movie's native language, then that could be relevant in one's artistic judgement of the film.

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Part of the quality of a movie lies in its acting. If the actors speak their lines poorly in the movie's native language, then that could be relevant in one's artistic judgement of the film.

Does this take away from your enjoyment of the film, and if so, why?

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Incidentally, I haven't come across a Chinese person who liked the film.
Yes, but we're not Chinese here, are we (for the most part probably)? And you certainly are not Chinese, so I'm not sure what relevance it has whether the Chinese like or don't like the movie. As a matter of fact, I don't really like most Chinese movies either, I find them superficial and with low production values and with soap opera acting (at best). Crouching Tiger, just like Hero, at least had outstanding production values, top notch acting, music, scenery, etc. That's why the Western audiences have embraced these films, because they look more like Western movies with Chinese actors/dialogue than authentic Chinese movies, the latter usually looking cheap and cheesy, especially the martial arts flicks. So I guess I can let the Chinese audiences enjoy those films, and take Crouching Tiger and Hero for myself :D

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Well, the more information the better. I had no idea that the accents were bad, but I can certainly see how it would affect the story for anyone who understands Mandarin, which is a lot of people! It makes sense that the film was made with (I presume) Western audiences in mind, because that is just what I thought was the appealing part of it. It LOOKED like an expensive Hollywood production - a nice surprise for me. I don't think it's a controversial point that the film was made by those with enough professionalism, talent, and money to do their jobs well.

I'll just reiterate that I thought the acting was good, because the emotions were well-conveyed and consistent with the characters and story. Of course, this was clear to me, in part, because the characters and story held my interest.

As far as I'm concerned, nothing can rescue a film for someone who has no interest in the characters or actively dislikes them; though in that case, I think misjudging the acting (or other elements) is easy to do, and hard not to do. I tend not to judge films like that much at all (unless pressed), because I don't have enough interest in them to take the time to analyze them with full objectivity.

From my p.o.v. (reading English subtitles) the acting strongly supported the dialog as translated. I don't recall the dialog being outstanding in either direction (good or bad). But I am very critical about dialog, and didn't get the sense of exasperation invariably caused by it when it's bad.

And I clearly agree that it was a terrible ending, and pseudo-profound is a perfect description. Exactly. What mysticism is generally hiding is an extremely malevolent view of man -- often disguised as a hazy/squishy profundity.

I have to say about movies in general that the artistic standard today is so abysmally low, that I appreciate the parts I'm able to of a relative few films, hoping all the while that someone will raise the standard (since I've never considered taking on the task of starting my own production company).

I never count on films to be good in every way. After watching many movies over a long period of time, I tend to enjoy elements of some and that's it. Casablanca is the only film I can think of off-hand that is great in every major way (visual, story, acting, dialog, theme), judging strictly by the market standards of past and present. In a better culture the standards met by Casablanca would be routinely achieved. And boy would they be higher! But so far, that's a pipe dream.

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I didn't like it. I didn't care for the herione, her motivations, behavior, etc. I didn't like her romance. I don't care for the lead actress, for that matter either, and don't think she has one tenth of the class that Gong Li had as the leading Chinese actress. I thought the ending was bad, and quite unclear, as if to appear deep by muddying the water. To me, the movie came across as pseudo-profound, like a fortune cookie message. Incidentally, I haven't come across a Chinese person who liked the film. Most of the actors (Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh) are native Cantonese speakers, but the film had all Mandarin dialogue, and I was told that their accents were quite bad. My Chinese friends and family members suggested that the film was made to look like a local Chinese film, but it was actually aimed at foreign markets. I bought the dvd cheap a couple of years ago, thinking my Chinese in-laws might watch it, but they had no interest in seeing it again.

The flying people didn't bother me at all, however, and the special effects, fighting, and cinematography were the best elements of the film to me.

I know this is an insanely late reply, but this movie was recommended to me with glowing praise by one of my Chinese co-workers. So, I guess there are all kinds of people out there.

Btw, I've not seen the movie to this day. :-)

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I know this is an insanely late reply, but this movie was recommended to me with glowing praise by one of my Chinese co-workers. So, I guess there are all kinds of people out there.

Btw, I've not seen the movie to this day. :-)

I saw the movie when it was first released years ago and was quite bored by it. There was so much brouhaha surrounding it for very little payoff in my view. It was a kung fu movie with production values.

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