Dec 29, 2000

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a film with some dazzling set pieces. But the story never quite jells. It begins by focusing on a master warrior who wants to give up his fighting ways so he can be with the woman he has always secretly loved. But then the story switches to a young aristocratic woman with tremendous warrior potential who is about to marry a man she doesn't love. These lines run parallel but never become one. The first story has a passive hero. The second story has a terrific hero but one without a clear goal or need.

A central feature of the film is the use of the Chinese convention of warriors being able to scale walls and defy gravity. The writers take this convention to a new level by having the fighters in effect fly over rooftops and natural settings of incredible beauty. A fight in the treetops is especially stunning.

But the real potential of this technique is largely wasted because it is not connected to character and theme. Flying is the ultimate expression of freedom. But the characters doing the flying here do so only as a technique of fighting.