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Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 13:51 GMT
Review: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Chow Yun-Fat stars as a warrior fighting for his people
By BBC News's Neil Smith

Set in early 19th Century China, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a romantic saga that blends a haunting tale of undeclared love with dazzling martial arts devised by Yuen Wo Ping, fight choreographer of The Matrix.

Adapted from a four-volume novel by Wang Du Lu, the film marks Lee's first Chinese-language feature since 1994's Eat Drink Man Woman.

Yu Shu Lien is played by Michelle Yeoh
Yu Shu Lien - played by Michelle Yeoh - is China's most renowned female warrior
Chow Yun-Fat, who starred in The Replacement Killers, Anna and the King, stars as Li Mu Bai, a legendary warrior who has spent his life pursuing justice for his people.

He is called into service once more when the Green Destiny, an ancient sword with mystical powers, is stolen by a thief with extraordinary, gravity-defying skills.

Li teams up with Yu Shu Lien - played by Michelle Yeoh - China's most renowned female warrior, to recover the weapon.

The trail leads to Jen - played by Zhang Ziyi - a young and wilful aristocrat who has just arrived in Beijing after years in the western territories.

Surprise

Unwilling to settle for the loveless marriage that has been arranged for her, Jen harbours dreams of freedom that lead her to take on the identity of the country's most wanted criminal.

The reason for her restlessness lies in a secret in her past - a forbidden romance with Lo - played by Chang Chen - a charming bandit she met in the desert.
Lo is played by Chang Chen
Lo - played by Chang Chen - is the charming bandit

Described by co-writer James Schamus as "Sense and Sensibility with martial arts", Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a major departure for Lee.

"Martial arts has always been one of the main kinds of entertainment in Chinese society," he says.

"There's a part of me that feels, unless you make a martial arts film, you are not a real film-maker."

Those expecting a standard slice of Oriental chop-socky, though, are in for a surprise.

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is not a Kung Fu movie," says Schamus. "This movie is more about inner strength and centredness."

Locations

Michelle Yeoh, recently seen in Tomorrow Never Dies, agrees. "In the previous martial arts films I've done, we have always put loyalty, honour, tradition and martial arts ahead of everything else," she says.

She adds: "But [Ang] deals with inner emotions like fear, and death, which is something that we've touched on, but we have never truly explored in that way."

The result is certainly a strange brew.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Stunning scenery is a major feature

Beautifully shot in a wide variety of locations across China, it's a poetic, visionary work whose themes of honour, nobility and destiny may not have the same resonance to Western audiences as they do in the Far East.

The fight sequences, however, are astounding, with actors seen floating over rooftops, running up walls and leaping from tree to tree in a spectacular series of balletic encounters.

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See also:

21 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Crouching Tiger leads Oscars assault
05 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Ang Lee's Tiger roars on
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