Premieres: This movie had its world premiere at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival out of competition. It was released in several Asian markets in July, 2000. The North American premiere was at the 27th Annual Telluride Film Festival, as part of a tribute to Ang Lee, which is where I reviewed it, on September 4th, 2000.
Title Note: After seeing the film, I found myself wondering where the title came from. Well, from the press materials, here's your answer. The name for "dragon" is embedded in the script of the name of the character, Jen, which makes Lo the Tiger. The "crouching" and "hidden" parts make sense as they relate to those two characters. However, Ang Lee also stresses that every character in the film is a "hidden dragon" in some sense.
Award: People's Choice Award, 25th Annual Toronto International Film Festival.
Language: Mandarin Chinese with English subtitles. Original title: Ngor Fu Chong Lung, Wo Hu Cang Long. (Note: The dialect of Mandarin used in the film is an ancient form; it has been compared to the difference between Shakespeare's Elizabethan and modern English.
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat (Li Mu Bai), Michelle Yeoh (Yu Shu Lien), Zhang Ziyi (Jen Yu), Chang Chen (Lo), Cheng Peipei (Jade Fox),Li Fa Feng (Governor Yu), Gao Xi'an (Bo), Hai Yan (Madam Yu), Wang Deming (Tsai), Li Li (May)
Director: Ang Lee (Ride with the Devil, The Ice Storm, Sense and Sensibility, Eat Drink Man Woman, The Wedding Banquet)
Action Coordinator: Yuen Woo-Ping (the Hong Kong fight guru behind The Matrix, Black Mask, and many other action favorites; he's also a director)
Screenwriters: James Schamus, Wang Hui-Ling (the writing team of Eat Drink Man Woman; James Schamus also wrote or cowrote Ang Lee's other movies as well), Tsai Kuo Jung (debut)
Based upon: The fourth part of a five-part novel by Wang Dulu. (Actually, parts of it; the planned prequel and sequel will address the rest of the novel.)
Filming: Production took place in China (including Beijing, Xinjing, and the Gobi Desert) throughout the late fall of 1999.
Premise: In 19th century Qing Dynasty China, a warrior (Chow) gives his sword, Green Destiny, to his lover (Yeoh) to deliver to safe keeping, but it is stolen, and the chase is on to find it. As the search leads to the House of Yu, the story takes on a whole different level, including the manipulations of the wicked warrior, Jade Fox (Peipei), a mysterious young woman (Ziyi), and her desert lover (Chen).
Chinese Name Note: I want to note that Chinese names are often tricky to get right because their ordering is the opposite of western names. For example, Chow Yun-Fat's name is actually Yun-Fat Chow; Chow is his family name. The cast listing I have above comes from Sony directly.

Review (****): There is a long-established genre in Chinese film and literature called "Wuxia." The Wuxia were a class of knights during the time of Confucius, who in this fantasy-based fiction often have magical abilities like flight (actually more like gravity-free leaps), and speed, reflexes and strength of superhuman levels. Chinese movies about them, called Wuxia Pien, have been made for decades, but few have had the budget or the expected worldwide release that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will have. Traditionally, martial arts films are male-dominated, with female roles being mostly supporting. The genre is similar to westerns and war movies in that respect. This film, however, turns the tables. Sure, Chow Yun-Fat's name comes first, but he's not the central character. That is Jen (Ziyi), the daughter of Governor Yu, whom Yu Shu (Yeoh) befriends in her search for the sword, the Green Destiny. Here, I have to tread lightly in giving details, because there are mysteries that are revealed slowly in the film. Let's just say that Jen seems like a supporting character at first, but eventually we realize that the first half hour was just prelude to her story. Jen is a young woman who lives several lives, whether as daughter, lover, student, and possibly even master. The villain of the film is a female assassin, Jade Fox (Peipei), who killed the master of Wudan warrior Li (Chow Yun-Fat). Jade Fox is like the Darth Vader of this movie; there's a proper mix of evil and sympathy. Plus, she gets some of the most fantastic action sequences. Too many action films simply insert paper-thin villains who have little reason to be villains, or to interact with the hero(es). Jade Fox, on the other hand, is complex, serving as a sort of female archetype for the same sort of adventuring and free-spirited lifestyle that we might applaud male characters for. Sure, she seems like a "witch" at first, but by film's end, you almost feel sorry for her. Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat play warriors who have never expressed their love for each other, but who have a strong bond regardless. Their roles are most prominent in the first act (and then again in the finale), establishing the world of the "Giang Hu", a class of travelling knights whose purpose is to do good deeds, righting wrongs, etc. Chow's character is one of the great warriors of his time, but after great meditation at Wudan Mountain, he has decided to leave that life behind him. Throughout the film, his character uses meditation and reflection to consider his path. Yeoh's character is still a warrior, and so we see her in action much more, and considering that she fights mostly women (like the Jade Fox), that does a great deal to establish that distinctly feminine view I mentioned earlier. Though this film has a rich and textured tale (that I can't say much more about), what will draw the largest audience to the film are the dazzling "aerial ballet" and swordplay fight scenes. Yuen Woo-Ping's "wire work", which gave The Matrix its distinct style is triply on display here, as these fantasy-based warriors are able to leap, fly, walk on walls, dive, and fight in a certain natural setting (scroll for spoiler: there's a "tree top" sequence between Chow and Ziyi that you won't forget) that may never have been seen before in cinema... it's that unique and amazing. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was filmed at locations all over China, including the Gobi Desert, which is the setting for an extended flashback sequence about halfway through, establishing the character of Lo, a bandit called the "Dark Cloud". At the time, this sequence seemed to deflate some of the energy of the film, but it pays off by establishing the second of two romances that drives the film right up to its end. Traditionally, foreign language films have a tough time in the USA, but I foresee success for this film that should put it above $100 million or more, without any dubbing required. It's not that there isn't a lot of dialogue, there certainly is. Success is destined for this movie because it has a mix of romance, fantasy, and action that will appeal to all audiences regardless of age, sex, or whether they watch many subtitled films. As I asked Telluride moviegoers what their favorite film of the festival was, this was their answer 90% of the time, which is amazing considering the caliber of Telluride's films. To sum up, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is one of those rare films that grabs you early on, taking you into a fantasy world, right up until its big, emotional finale. Perhaps only Ang Lee, with his record of movies about women and social codes could have found the balance between martial arts wonder and a great romantic epic. Greg's Preview Thoughts: This film is slated by Sony for a platform release in late December, 2000, which might seem a ways off now, but it mirrors their strategy for other Chinese-themed films, such as The Emperor and the Assassin, which they also held onto for a full year waiting for a December release. This time, the film they've got chockful of fan anticipation, with its two stars having avid fanbases, and this film represents their first collaboration. Throw in a respected director, and an interesting premise, and a title that seems tailor-made for cult status, and well, by the time it actually reaches theaters, there may be lines around the block. (Or not). Oh wait, I forgot to mention that the action scenes are choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping, whose signature was all over The Matrix (he personally trained Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and other cast members). So, yeah, this movie is one that many people are looking forward to. The word on this film was suprisingly tight until Time Asia published its lengthy set report (see link to left). There should be plenty more in the months to come. I should expect that the Asian release in July should at least bring forth more detail of the film, images, etc. Stay tuned. (4/4/00) The official site is now open, including the trailer. (7/31/00) Sony has moved this film up to a December 8th, 2000 wide release (rather than "platforming" it from LA/NY first in late December). I think this is a great idea, as all accounts indicate this is a film that can have wide commercial appeal, from those who love martial arts to just about anyone else. It also doesn't hurt that the MPAA rating is PG-13. If Sony goes completely wide, and has a marketing plan that gets the name out there to moviegoers, expect this film to open huge. (8/8/00) Nope, the 12/8 date is indeed in New York only, kicking off a platform release. There's no word yet on when (or if) it will go wide. Sometime in 2001 seems likely/possible.

Jet Li Note: When this film was first announced, it was to star Jet Li, but he did Romeo Must Die instead, and so we have Chow Yun-Fat. I think Jet Li is great too, but in a way, I think I'm more excited to see CYF in this sort of historical action film. Why? Jet Li has done several of these films, but for CYF, who is more of a gun guy than a sword guy, it's a welcome new avenue. (CYF did wield a sword in the TV series, The Smiling Wanderer, but this is the first feature film).