on November 24, 2010
I have the DVD version and saw this movie in the theater too. Recently I got the Blu-ray version. The subtitles of the Blu-ray are very suspicious. They are significantly different from the DVD/theater. Why is that? Also, the subtitle translation for Blu-ray seem very "Americanized", as if the studio wanted to make it more accessible, perhaps, to U.S. audiences. But having got used to the DVD subtitles, and not speaking Chinese, I can't say the subtitles for the DVD or Blu-ray are correct or not, or that one is better than the other.
Example: The scene where Jen meets and fights with Li Mu Bai for the first time. Jen executes a move that astonishes Mu Bai, who exclaims "Jade Fox can't be your master. Where did you learn the 'Xuan Piu' move?". Jen's response in the DVD: "I'm just playing around". The blu-ray: "Piece of cake." Now which reply by Jen seems more realistic for that time period, in that part of the world? It seems more likely that Jen would say she's just playing around, or improvising. There are two English translations on Blu ray, and they give the same translation, so there's no hunting for the "better" version on Blu-ray.
Throughout the Blu ray, there are many differences in translation compared to the dvd to make one wonder: which version is more correct, given that something is always "lost in translation" from one language to another? These are glaring differences. What's on the Blu-ray is very different from the DVD, and just feels wrong. Anyone else notice this?
on February 12, 2001
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is simply a masterpiece. A brilliant film with great performances by its stars, Michelle Yeoh, Chow yun fat, and especially Zhang Ziyi. Director Ang Lee along with his choreographer tell this epic story in a stunning and creative visual way that makes this film one of the greatest ever made. The action scenes in this film are jaw dropping, and are unmatched by any action film ever made. Along with the action, is a great story and great characters that reflect influences from Lord of the Rings, and parallel the Jedi of the Star Wars trilogy, but remain consistent with the eastern culture and philosophy which permeates throughout the story. In fact, the main characters, especially Jen, portrayed by the talented Zhang Ziyi , seem to question that philosophy and culture throughout the film, almost rebelling against it. This is foreshadowed in the beginning of the film when Yun-fat's character describes how his meditation leads him to a place of sorrow instead of enlightenment. In a later scene, Yeoh 's character questions the buddhist teaching of Fat's character in relation to their suppressed love, pointing out the touch of her hand is real,not an illusion, even though it is of this world. However it is also the discipline of this eastern spirituality that gives these knights their power. the main character Jen, abuses this power, along with the power given to her when she posesses the Green Destiny, a magical and powerful sword, owned by the wizard -like, or jedi- like, character portrayed by Chow Yun-Fat. The Green Destiny, much like the ring of power in lord of the rings, or the force in Star Wars, becomes a power that threatens to consume Jen. Throughout the film , Jen rebels against the traditions of the easten culture and philosophy. Even during the action scenes, as Chow Yun-Fat's character scolds her, she responds by telling him to stop talking like a monk and fight. Her rebellion is also reflected in her love for a barbarian that lives in the desert. Jen's rebellion is an extreme one, however, that leads to such deep despair, that it leaves the viewer to question if even the true love she found in the desert can save her. This movie has everything one wants in an epic, great story, acting, cinematography, directing, score. This film should win an Oscar for Best Picture... Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is truly a great film.
on February 22, 2001
Being as I'm Irish and extremely stubborn, I hate to admit when I'm wrong but in two prior reviews I referred to American Psycho as "the best movie of the early 21st century," and of Gladiator's Oscar hopes I proclaimed it would be "a more than worthy recipient." As it turns out I must recant both of these statements because as of the date they were written I had yet to see the Ang Lee masterpiece Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It's a film so exquisite that to compare it to even the best of our American movies would be downright insulting.
Chow Yun-Fat stars as a legendary warrior preparing for retirement, presumably to settle down and start a family with the sister of his slain master Shu Lien (Michelle Yoeh). And though their love for eachother is obvious from on the onset, they can't quite summon the courage to speak of their hidden passion. So Lu Mu Bai (Yun-Fat), unalbe to express himself to Lien, entrusts her with a sacred sword that's to be passed on to a friend, symbolic of his retirement from rouge life. She willingly obliges only to have the sword stolen that very night by a masked intruder. It's then that we're treated to our first of many fight sequences, so breathtakingly fluent in their beauty that they are literally awe inspiring.
Our masked intruder is later revealed to us as being the daughter to the governor, Jen, whose martial arts training has been repressed by her family because of her sex. Despite this she finds training from Jade Fox, a corrupt disciple of Bai's master whose death he's sworn to avenge, as is customary in their culture. So the battle lines are drawn, from which the story unfolds, but Lee doesn't bother labeling his characters as "good guys" and "bad guys." It's almost insulting to even suggest, given how multifaceted they all are.
Even Jade Fox has her reasons for being as she is. The daughter of a sexist society, she was denied training, as was Jen. So she in turn taught herself, secretly observing until her skills were such that she enabled herself to take the life of Bai's master. To her it seemed a fitting demise to a man who saw women as inferior to himself, and all men for that matter.
As the story continues to unfold we come to discover that Jen had an affair with a theif whom she'd met while he and his gang were robbing her. Being as she's such a great warrior, she gives chase to the gang but their leader, Lo, wants her to himself. He leads her out into the desert to spar, and it's through their fighting that they're able to express themselves. As they trade blows their relationship materializes into love, their quarreling an unspoken courtship.
Romance, honor, self-respect, female empowerment. These are universal themes, the power of which can be felt even without subtitles. The actors faces, which are so expressive, combined with the movies score tells the story as well as any of it's dialogue. This is important because the rhythmic flow of their exchanges are so absorbing that I'd catch myself getting lost in the moment and forgetting to read the subtext. But that doesn't diminish my appreciation for a film so engrossing that it seemingly transports you to a time and a place the likes of which you've likely never experienced before.
What I find most amazing about this movie is the fact that it's adapted from an obscure Chinese novel. To think that their heritage is so rich that one of the greatest love stories in the history of literature can nearly be lost forever is simply mind boggling.
It's been a humbling task for me to attempt and write a review to a movie which there are no words to describe, at least none that would do it proper justice. All I can say is that I consider myself lucky to have seen a movie as intensely satisfying as Crouching Tiger come along in my lifetime. Go see this movie!
on June 11, 2001
What else needs to be said about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? It is the most amazing action film in years. It is the single most imaginative piece of fiction to come to the moving going audience in a quite a ling time.
But what about the DVD? Well sadly it is the most dismal piece of work to come from Sony DVD center this year. Sony was on a streak of superb discs recently but this hack job put an end to that.
The DVD was clearly rushed to market. The transfer is not very clean at all. The MPEG2 artifacts are terrible. Those of us who are fortunate to have a widescreen TV are going to be the most unfortunate this time. The Native widescreen presentation is oh so dismal of an experience! The colors are clean but the pixel jaggies does enough damage to distract the viewer.
The Audio tracks are not at all well managed. There is no reason what so ever to waste valuable data bandwidth to do a Dolby pro-logic track. I love the fact that the disc comes with both Mandarin & English 5.1 Dolby Digital but the bass is so weak. The audio was not at all enhanced. The commentary track is nothing new, it's above average.
The Extras are well... lacking, the making of documentary is pure PR fluff sadly, and the trailers are not even the original ones that Sony was using to advertise the film. The photomontage is mediocre at best.
So why all these complaints? Sony has a masterpiece on their hands and it's pretty clear they did not give it the proper treatment. In a market place where we will have "Patch Adams: Ultimate Edition", and Bring it on: Super Special Extra Spectacular Widescreen Edition, one would assume the big guys at Sony will release a DVD of monumental standards of their big film of 2000. But NO!
So what they miss? First of all the Video was mediocre and should be redone. The Audio needs a lot of work; they should be enhanced to take advantage of all the speakers. A DTS track is perfect for this film I would say. How about a Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun Fat & Ang Lee commentary track? Most of all a Score Only track would be prudent since the film won best score at the academy awards. I am sure there are deleted scenes they could have put on the disc. How about some real making of docs, discussing the stunt work, the novels, or even the production in a larger scale. There are a wealth of pictures on this film, why not include them in user control slide shows? What happened to the music videos?
Sony rushed this disc to the market to capitalize on the films fame. The product is average at best. This film deserves a superior DVD job. Come on Sony, stop giving us special editions of Center Stage and give us a true Collector's Special Edition of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon! (Like Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge on River Kwai, Men In Black, and so on... Hint Hint! )
on March 27, 2001
No matter what oscar says. I knew as soon as I saw this movie nominated for both best foreign film and best picture that it would definitely win best foreign, and fall to gladiator for best picture. While I enjoyed Gladiator a great deal, it is a crime that CTHD did not win the award it so richly deserved: Best Picture of the year 2000. When I first went to see this film, I was among the hordes who were blown away by the stunning cinematography, incredible action choreography and amazing wire work. Truly a remarkable action film with amazing filming on location. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite so brilliantly green as the bamboo forest that is but a small location shot in this movie. The first viewing proved to me that I loved this film, but it did not prove to me that it was the best picture of the year. That took 2 viewings. I highly recommend to anyone who has seen this film and enjoyed it that you go see it again. I found (since I don't speak chinese) that seeing it a second time while already knowing the story allowed me to concentrate less on reading subtitles, and more on the actors and their performances. It was amazing to me to peel back the layers of the initially strong performances in this film and see the incredible amount of nuance that each of the leads provided in their portrayals. After seeing it the second time, I had a whole new take on almost every piece of dialog in the film. The first scene between Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh most definitely sets the tone for this film, and contrary to what many would have you believe it is not a tone of rollicking action/adventure. It is instead a tone of yearning, tragedy and love found too late, then lost. This movie, packed with stunning fights and amazing flying martial artists is not so much about fighting, as it is about the chinese values of loyalty, honor and duty, and how these admirable values can ultimately keep one from truly being happy. It is the story of a love denied too long, and accepted too late. I am not ashamed to say that I wept openly at the end of this film both times that I saw it. The power of the story and the performances were so strong that I felt a small shadow of the loss that the characters in the film felt, and even this small shadow was enough to make me weep. For those of you who find nothing but swordfights and blood in this movie, nothing I can say will change your mind; but for those who have an inkling that this film is about much more than fighting and bloodshed, go see it again and buy it when it is released on DVD. You will not for one instant be sorry that you did.
on January 11, 2001
There's a telling moment near the beginning of Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."
In closeup, we see the rough-hewn, heavy wooden wheels of a peasant cart. They nestle in deep ruts worn into the stone paving blocks of a roadway entering a gated city. The cart rumbles on, its wheels fitting perfectly into the grooves worn by unspoken centuries of just such passing wagons...in one image we see how tradition creates its own paths, how contemporary reality is fabricated to fit such traditions... The camera rises, we see an almost impossible panorama of Peking, the Forbidden City spreading out before us like an Oz extending to the horizon.
What a film this is. While it may not be the most wondrous thing ever...it is a superb action adventure romance with terrific acting and a much-welcome heart at the core of all that technical superiority. The action sequences are the kind that take the breath away and inspire a sense of awe, rather than the sort that leave you white-knuckled and sweaty.
"Crouching Tiger...", I am told, is representative of a specific literary/cinematic genre in China: Wu Xia...the wizard/warrior piece...magic and martial arts blended. I'm not familiar with the form, but the world portrayed here is a breathtakingly fantastical one. The story is putatively set in 19th century China, but it could be anywhere, anywhen. It is a place of high honor and deep feelings, a place where people are bound by traditions and held captive by their forms. It is also a place of wild and mythic landscapes...from stark desert (thought nowhere do we get that featureless, wide-screen linear horizon seen in David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia!") to magic misty green mountains with deep dark lakes and steeply cascading streams that come braiding, tumbling down the rockslide heights. High, reedy bamboo forests wave, wondrous, in sighing winds.
In this world people may do amazing things. The flying in this movie -- properly called "wire work" in film terms -- is fantastic. This technique, of course, was not invented by the Wachowski's, but the choreographer of "Crouching Tiger...", Woo-ping Yuen, also staged the wire-fights of "Matrix." Here, the ability of our warrior heros and villains to climb walls, to leap to the rooftops and soar from building to building -- not to mention engaging each other in aerial combat that soars from the peak of a mountain top to the rocks of a mountain stream in a single take -- or to duel on the very tips of dipping, waving bamboo trees -- looks almost plausible, just over the border of the possible, at least. The whole packed-in audience at the big theater at the advanced screening at Pipers Alley in Chicago burst into spontaneous applause several times throughout...
At other moments, I found myself in weepy transport. As I think of the fight in the treetops, right now, I become drippy -- tingly of eye and sinus.
Apart from all else, this is grand storytelling! It has passion, love, revenge...it expresses deep need and longing.
Pant, pant, pant...
And, yes, the woman are the action hearts of the film! Michelle Yeoh is wonderful...but I've been in love with her for years. Here, she is more mature, quieter, wiser than in any role I've seen her in. Her performance is strong and moving, her face registering, magically, a range of conflicting emotions, hidden secrets, crouching angers, all at once. In acting training we were always told you can't do that. She does it.
Chow Yun Fat, too...I've been a fan of his since I first discovered John Woo's Hong Kong crime thrillers...is the best I've ever seen, as well...magnificent in his silences. Strength without cruelty.
The center of the film...remarkably...is a girl who looks to be about 15! Ziyi Zhang whose date of birth is given as 1979. Zhang is from Beijing, China, and has only one other film credit. I say that she is remarkable because her story is the binding element of the film. And she holds the film together! Holding her own with Yeoh and Chow in both the dramatic material and in the balletic martial pas de deus (okay...did I spell that right?) that frame the conflicts between them. She is the "Luke Skywalker" of the piece, if you will...though "Crouching Tiger..." has everything the "Star Wars" saga had: excitement, thrills and magic, but here, it is wrapped in those things Lukasfilm wanted to give, but succeeded in delivering in only the most self-conscious way: heart and deep-placed spirit.
By the way: this is an action film, almost uniquely without violence...or, rather, the violence is so stylized, so removed into some mystical realm, that it almost disappears into dance. There is, I believe, only one small splash of blood onscreen. Typically, I don't like that -- figuring that if you're going to do a film where violence is part of it all, where action advances plot, let's have it full-bore, the "Full Peckinpaw," if you will. Here, however, this stylization works beautifully!
While there are those who might grumble that Jackie Chan (another favorite of mine) does it all for real, without wires and trick photography...okay...true enough... But here that exuberance of motion is put in service of a grand story and strong characters who carry worthwhile burdens of emotions!
So there. Enough? Just go see it.
I can't wait for the DVD! I'll probably see it again, maybe see it twice again, before it hits the home-market.
on April 14, 2001
It is rare when a foreign language film has the ability to grab the attention of my fifteen-year-old nephew and me, but this movie is extraordinary. We read the subtitles and did not feel like we were missing any details -- only that a world had suddenly been opened for us to view.
Since we saw this film, we have discussed it and persuaded others to experience this enchantment. Every so often we talk about this movie and plan to see it many more times. This DVD should be shown in wide-angle format in order to see all of the majesty captured on cellulose.
The script creates a perfectly logical connection between fantasy and reality, logic and irrationality, and mythology and truth. This flow makes it easy to suspend disbelief and be completely entrapped within the breathtaking beauty and fierce fights of the movie.
Yun-Fat Chow is Li Mu Bai, and he displays a spiritual countenance that is the center of a true martial arts master. His life has been in service and honor toward the sword *The Green Destiny.* The complexities of his life and his choices are only a background for the intricacies of romance, tragedy, heroism, and philosophy that are woven with precise skill and art throughout this astonishing movie.
Michelle Yeoh (Yu Shu Lien) and Zhang Ziy (Jen) become acquaintances, then friends, then sisters, and finally enemies. The transitions are created by the strong will of the young princess (Zhang) who ultimately learns the value of friendship, but at great cost. She is well trained in the ninja arts by Li Mu Bai's ancient arch nemesis. This training is significant because rivals do tend to reveal the inadequacies of their opponents while assuring their young students with victory.
The action scenes are stimulating and plausible though the stunts are physically impossible -- or so it seems. What is most amazing is that these impossible stunts were real! The actors did the scenes, perhaps stunt doubles for some, though I doubt it because of Ang Lee's determination for accuracy. When the warriors fly through the air, fight on the sides of building, chase across the rooftops, or fight high in the bamboo trees they did exactly that. These were not created through simulation and the magic of technology.
After the scenes were filmed then the digital artists worked to remove the equipment that helped the actors complete the feats. The visions of China and the exciting ninja action captured my imagination.
Ang Lee required the actors to learning to speak Mandarin Chinese. The language accuracy may not seem important to those of us who do not speak Chinese, but it is the difference between cultures within China. I was left with the feeling that I had spent time in a sacred place.
Throughout the film there is the artistry of the music. Segments will take you to dreamland while other sequences will cause a rush of adrenaline. It is as if you are riding on a magic carpet -- you are there.
I purchased two DVDs -- one for me and one for my nephew -- *Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon* is that good.
It is better than five stars for the director (Ang Lee), cinematography, choreography, film editing, script, actors, action, philosophy, and emotions. This movie won Best Picture in the Foreign Language category at the Academy Awards; and it deserved the honor.
on July 27, 2010
I upgraded to Blu-ray from my well-worn DVD copy (the 2001 release). I have not seen the previous Blu-ray release that came as part of the three-pack, so my comments below compare the stand-alone Blu-ray to the DVD.
The Blu-ray transfer is a definite improvement over the DVD, though not to the degree of some other transfers I have seen. Much of the film was shot "soft" by Ang Lee to cover for wire-work and, basically, to suit his own taste. Those scenes remain soft on the new transfer. Not much if any of the grain has been removed and it occasionally flares up. So while it doesn't provide the "digital sharpness" (for a lack of a better phrase) of many recent releases, it does present what the director intended and I don't list that as a fault.
Black levels have improved and several scenes have had exposure levels altered (all for the better). Coloring remains much the same as the DVD. Most noticeably, the offensive random noise and dirt from the DVD release has been cleaned up. That in itself is a good reason to upgrade.
Sound is now in Dolby TrueHD and emphasizes the clash of swords a bit more but it is no huge improvement. I've never listened to the English audio track so I don't know if that's changed at all, but the sub-titles have been reworked and that is good news. It seemed easier to follow some of the plot nuances (like the master-pupil concerns) which I had to piece out over several previous viewings of the DVD. Extras are the same with one addition, a commentary track by Peter Pau (cinematographer) which is worth listening to.
Overall this is a definite improvement over DVD and fans should consider buying. I always thought the DVD rushed and beneath Sony for a film that won so many Academy Awards; this is a good step up. Oh, and Michelle Yeoh looks more gorgeous than ever in HD.
on January 15, 2001
Director Ang Lee (Sense & Sensibility) has created an epic tale of love, honor, devotion, and intrigue set against a backdrop of 19th century China. When Li Mu Bai (Chow Yung Fat) decides to give the infamous "Green Destiny" sword to his good friend it sets in motion a story of breathtaking passion whether it's a sword fight in a courtyard or a gentle touching of the hands at a table. The acting is superb especially Ziyi Zhang with her porcelein doll looks but lightining quick moves manifesting itself throughout the film especially in the restuarant scene. Chow Yung Fat (Li Mu Bai) and Michelle Yeoh (Yu Shu Lien) play their roles to perfection on two levels, they are great warriors but understate their strengths due to their teachings from the Masters...and the relationship between them is on the surface benign but we know they are madly in love with one another. Then we have Chen Chang (Lo) who sweeps Jen Yu off her feet like Michael Douglas did to Kathleen Turner in "Romancing The Stone". Pei Pei Cheng plays "Jade Fox" nicely as the betrayer but deep down inside someone you can feel sorry for. The action sequences were masterfully choreograghed by Yuen Wo-Ping (The Matrix) as he was able to blend the movements like a Kirov Ballet. Add to this the thunder and fury of the music of Tan Dun for the fighting/action scenes and the beautiful and melodic cello work of Yo-Yo-Ma to bring out the love and passion of the central characters you soon realize your senses are experiencing something special. Only a few films have done that to me in the past...it would be an understatement to simply say i think this is the best film of 2000-2001 since that would be accepting it on just a physical sense but when it touches your mind and soul in ways words can't describe it goes way beyond that.
on January 14, 2001
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is, for lack of a better word, astonishing. It's easily the best film I've seen this year (a title previously held by Almost Famous).
Directed by Ang Lee, this is a movie that had me slack-jawed with wonder for most of its playing time. The story is a retelling of an ancient Chinese folk tale: warrior Li Mu Bai (a commanding Chow Yun-Fat), heartsick at killing, has decided to take the path of peace. He asks his longtime friend Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh, in perhaps her finest performance) to give his 400-year-old sword, the Green Destiny, to Sir Te in Beijing. Shortly after the sword has been given to Sir Te, it vanishes, coinciding with the arrival of Governor Yu for his daughter Yu Jen's (Zhang Ziyi) arranged wedding. What follows is an engrossing detective story involving plots and counterplots: Lin Mu Bai suspects that it has been stolen by Jade Fox (Cheng Pei Pei), who may be posing as someone in Governor Yu's household. And Jade Fox may have an accomplice.
Tied into this plot are several subplots: the unspoken yearning between Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien; Yu Jen's desire for a life other than that as the wife of a bureaucrat; and her secret love for thief Lo (Chang Chen), a nomadic desert chieftain. The scenes between Chow and Yeoh are especially touching; Yeoh is particularly subtle and nuanced in her acting.
As touching as the romantic scenes are, the fight scenes are explosive and unbelievably fluid. People walk on water, they run up walls and leap from rooftop to rooftop as if gravity were just a nuisance, an idea to be ignored. I was particularly struck by how carefully the scenes were choreographed: Chow Yun-Fat's spare, economical style, befitting a master warrior; Yeoh's beautiful, natural style; and especially Zhang, who seems like a cross between Warner Brothers' Tasmanian Devil and a whirling Dervish, all angles and nuclear-powered fury. But the best thing is, the fight scenes don't feel tacked-on; they are led to naturally from all that came before.
I have a couple of quibbles with this movie all the same: parts of it felt like they dragged or were longer than they needed to be, and the desert scenes between Chang and Zhang could easily have been put at the start of the movie. But that's minor compared to the sheer artistry on display here.
Much has been written on the strong feminist streak running through this movie. Women are the focus here, and with no apologies. But it doesn't feel like an anti-male rant; it is, instead, a touching and affecting movie about men and women. The diversity of the audience at the screening I attended certainly surprised me: couples of all ages, a small army of teenaged Asian girls, the requisite wuxia fanboys. At the end of the movie, the audience erupted in spontaneous applause and cheers.
And so, to sum up this too-long review: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is one of those rare movies that satisfies your heart and your head. Go see it. Go see it RIGHT NOW. My grade: A.