Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
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For other uses, see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (disambiguation).
|Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ang Lee|
|Produced by||Hsu Li-Kong|
|Screenplay by||Hui-Ling Wang|
|Story by||Wang Dulu|
|Music by||Tan Dun|
|Edited by||Tim Squyres|
|Distributed by||EDKO Film (HK)|
Sony Pictures Classics(US)
|Running time||120 minutes|
|Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon|
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a 2000 martial arts film. An American-Chinese-Hong Kong-Taiwanese co-production, the film was directed by Ang Lee and featured an international cast of ethnic Chinese actors, including Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen. The film was based on the fourth novel in a pentalogy, known in China as the Crane Iron Pentalogy, by wuxia novelist Wang Dulu. The martial arts and action sequences were choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping.
Made on a US$17 million budget, with dialogue in Mandarin, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon became a surprise international success, grossing $213.5 million. It grossed US$128 million in the United States, becoming the highest-grossing foreign-language film in American history. It has won over 40 awards. The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (Taiwan) and three other Academy Awards, and was nominated for six other Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film also won four BAFTAs and two Golden Globe Awards, one for Best Foreign Film. Along with its awards success, Crouching Tiger continues to be hailed as one of the greatest and most influential foreign language films in the United States, especially coming out of China. It has been praised for its martial arts sequences, story, andcinematography.
The film is set in the Qing Dynasty during the 43rd year (1779) of the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat) is an accomplished Wudang swordsman. Long ago, his master was murdered by Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-pei), a woman who sought to learn Wudang skills. Mu Bai is also a good friend of Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), a female warrior. Mu Bai and Shu Lien have developed feelings for each other, but they have never acknowledged or acted on them. Mu Bai, intending to give up his warrior life, asks Shu Lien to transport his sword, also referred to as the Green Destiny, to the city of Beijing, as a gift for their friend Sir Te (Sihung Lung). At Sir Te's estate, Shu Lien meets Jen (Zhang Ziyi), the daughter of Governor Yu (Li Fazeng), a visiting Manchu aristocrat. Jen, destined for an arranged marriage and yearning for adventure, seems envious of Shu Lien's warrior lifestyle.
One evening, a masked thief sneaks into Sir Te's estate and steals the sword. Mu Bai and Shu Lien trace the theft to Governor Yu's compound and learn that Jade Fox has been posing as Jen's governess for many years. Mu Bai makes the acquaintance of Inspector Tsai (Wang Deming), a police investigator from the provinces, and his daughter May (Li Li), who have come to Peking in pursuit of Fox. Fox challenges the pair and Sir Te's servant Master Bo (Gao Xi'an) to a showdown that night. Following a protracted battle, the group is on the verge of defeat when Mu Bai arrives and outmaneuvers Fox. Before Mu Bai can kill Fox, the masked thief reappears and partners with Fox to fight. Fox resumes the fight and kills Tsai before fleeing with the thief (who is revealed to be Fox's protegée, Jen). After seeing Jen fight Mu Bai, Fox realizes Jen had been secretly studying the Wudang manual and has surpassed her in skill.
At night, a desert bandit named Lo (Chang Chen) breaks into Jen's bedroom and asks her to leave with him. A flashback reveals that in the past, when Governor Yu and his family were traveling in the western deserts, Lo and his bandits had raided Jen's caravan and Lo had stolen her comb. She chased after him, following him to his desert cave seemingly in a quest to get her comb back. However, the pair soon fell passionately in love. Lo eventually convinced Jen to return to her family, though not before telling her a legend of a man who jumped off a cliff to make his wishes come true. Because the man's heart was pure, he did not die. Lo came to Peking to persuade Jen not to go through with her arranged marriage. However, Jen refuses to leave with him. Later, Lo interrupts Jen's wedding procession, begging her to come away with him. Nearby, Shu Lien and Mu Bai convince Lo to wait for Jen at Mount Wudang, where he will be safe from Jen's family, who are furious with him. Jen runs away from her husband on the wedding night before the marriage could be consummated. She fights several warriors in an inn and is victorious.
Jen visits Shu Lien, who tells her that Lo is waiting for her at Mount Wudang. After an angry dispute, the two women engage in a duel. Wielding the Green Destiny, Jen destroys each weapon that Shu Lien wields until losing to a broken sword held at her neck. When Shu Lien shows mercy and lowers the sword, Jen injures Shu Lien's arm. Mu Bai arrives and pursues Jen into a bamboo forest. Following a duel where Mu Bai regains possession of the Green Destiny, he decides to throw the sword over a waterfall. In pursuit, Jen dives into an adjoining river to retrieve the sword and is then rescued by Fox. Fox puts Jen into a drugged sleep and places her in a cavern; Mu Bai and Shu Lien discover her there. Fox suddenly reappears and attacks the others with poisoned darts. Mu Bai blocks the needles with his sword and avenges his master's death by mortally wounding Fox, only to realize that one of the darts hit him in the neck. Fox dies, confessing that her goal had been to kill Jen, because she was furious that Jen hid the secrets of Wudang from her.
As Jen exits to retrieve an ingredient for the antidote for the poisoned dart, Mu Bai prepares to die. With his last breaths, he finally confesses his love for Shu Lien. He dies in her arms as Jen returns, too late to save him. The Green Destiny is returned to Sir Te. Jen later goes to Mount Wudang and spends one last night with Lo. The next morning, Lo finds Jen standing on a balcony overlooking the edge of the mountain. In an echo of the legend that they spoke about in the desert, she asks him to make a wish. He complies, wishing for them to be together, back in the desert. Jen then leaps over the side of the mountain.
- Chow Yun-fat as Li Mu Bai (C: 李慕白, P: Lǐ Mùbái)
- Michelle Yeoh as Yu Shu Lien (T: 俞秀蓮, S: 俞秀莲, P: Yú Xiùlián)
- Zhang Ziyi as Jen Yu (English subtitled version) / Yu Jiaolong (English dubbed version) (T: 玉嬌龍, S: 玉娇龙, P: Yù Jiāolóng)
- Chang Chen as Lo "Dark Cloud" (English subtitled version) / Luo Xiaohu (English dubbed version) (T: 羅小虎, S: 罗小虎, P: Luó Xiǎohǔ)
- Cheng Pei-pei as Jade Fox (C: 碧眼狐狸, P: Bìyǎn Húli)
- Sihung Lung as Sir Te (T: 貝勒爺, C: 贝勒爷, P: Bèi-lèyé)
- Li Fazeng as Governor Yu
- Gao Xi'an as Bo
- Hai Yan as Madam Yu
- Wang Deming as Police inspector Tsai / Prefect Cai Qiu
- Huang Suying as Aunt Wu
- Yang Rui as Maid
- Li Kai as Gou Jun Pei
- Feng Jianhua as Gou Jun Sinung
- Ma Zhongxuan as Mi Biao
- Li Baocheng as Fung Machete Chang
- Yang Yongde as Monk Jing
- Zhang Shaocheng as Nightman
Themes and interpretations
The name "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" is a literal translation of the Chinese idiom "臥虎藏龍" which describes a place or situation that is full of danger. It is from a poem of the ancient Chinese poet Yu Xin's (513-581) that reads "暗石疑藏虎，盤根似臥龍", which means "behind the rock in the dark probably hides a tiger, and the coiling giant root resembles a crouching dragon." The last character in Xiaohu and Jiaolong's names mean "Tiger" and "Dragon" respectively.
A teacher's desire to have a worthy student, the obligations between a student and a master, and tensions in these relationships are central to the characters' motives, conflicts between the characters, and the unfolding of the film's plot. Li Mu Bai is burdened with the responsibility for avenging his master's death, and turns his back on retirement to live up to this obligation. His fascination with the prospect of having Jen as a disciple also motivates his behavior, and that of Jade Fox.
Regarding conflicts in the student-teacher relationship, the potential for exploitation created by the subordinate position of the student and the tensions that exist when a student surpasses or resists a teacher are explored. Jen hides her mastery of martial arts from her teacher, Jade Fox, which leads both to their parting of ways and to Jade Fox's attempt on Jen's life. At the same time, Jade Fox's own unorthodox relationship with a Wudang master (who she claims would not teach her, but did take sexual advantage of her) brought her to a life of crime. At times, Li Mu Bai and Jen's conversations more than hint that the desire for a teacher-student relationship could turn into a romantic relationship. Jen responds to these feelings, and her desire to not submit to a teacher, by turning away from Li Mu Bai when she jumps in the lake after the Green Destiny.
Poison is also a significant theme in the film. In the world of martial arts, poison is considered the act of one who is too cowardly and dishonorable to fight; and indeed, the only character that explicitly fits these characteristics is Jade Fox. The poison is a weapon of her bitterness, and quest for vengeance: she poisons the master of Wudang, attempts to poison Jen and succeeds in killing Mu Bai using a poisoned needle.
However, the poison is not only of the physical sort: Jade Fox’s tutelage of Jen has left Jen spiritually poisoned, which can be seen in the lying, stealing and betrayal Jen commits. Even though she is the one who initially trained Jen, Jen is never seen to use poison herself. This indicates that there is hope yet to reform her and integrate her into society. In further play on this theme by the director, Jade Fox, as she dies, refers to the poison from a young child, "the deceit of an eight-year-old girl", obviously referring to what she considers her own spiritual poisoning by her young apprentice Jen. Li Mu Bai himself warns that without guidance, Jen could become a "poison dragon".
Although its Academy Award was presented to Taiwan, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was in fact an international co-production between companies in four regions: the Chinese company China Film Co-Production Corporation; the American companies Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, Sony Pictures Classics and Good Machine; the Hong Kong company EDKO Film; and the Taiwanese Zoom Hunt International Productions Company, Ltd; as well as the unspecified United China Vision, and Asia Union Film & Entertainment Ltd., created solely for this film.
The film was made in Beijing, with location shooting in the Anhui, Hebei, Jiangsu and Xinjiang provinces of China. The first phase of shooting was in the Gobi Desert where it would consistently rain. Director Ang Lee noted that "I didn't take one break in eight months, not even for half a day. I was miserable—I just didn't have the extra energy to be happy. Near the end, I could hardly breathe. I thought I was about to have a stroke." The stunt work was mostly performed by the actors themselves and Ang Lee stated in an interview that computers were used "only to remove the safety wires that held the actors". "Most of the time you can see their faces," he added, "That's really them in the trees."
Another compounding issue were the varying accents of the four lead actors: Chow Yun-fat is from Hong Kong and spoke Cantonese natively and Michelle Yeoh is from Malaysia and spoke English. Only Zhang Ziyispoke with a native Mandarin accent that Ang Lee wanted. Chow Yun Fat said that on "the first day [of shooting] I had to do 28 takes just because of the language. That's never happened before in my life."
Because the film specifically targeted Western audiences rather than the domestic audiences who were already used to Wuxia films, English subtitles were needed. Ang Lee, who was educated in the West, personally edited the subtitles to ensure they were satisfactory for Western audiences.
Main article: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (soundtrack)
The score was composed by Tan Dun, originally performed by Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai National Orchestra, and Shanghai Percussion Ensemble. It also features many solo passages for cello played by Yo-Yo Ma. The "last track" (A Love Before Time) features Coco Lee. The music for the entire film was produced in two weeks.