Bring on tha Kung Fu, baby!
The movies I am going to review are: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Wo hu cang long by Ang Lee (2000), Hero Ying xiong by Yimou Zhang (2002), Shaolin Soccer Siu lam juk kau by Stephen Chow (2001), Kung Fu Hustle also by Stephen Chow (2004), House of the Flying Daggers by Yimou Zhang (2004), Fearless Hou Yuan Jia by Ronny Yu (2006), Ong-Bak by Prachya Pinkaew (2003), Zatoichi by Takeshi Kitano (2003), Shinobi by Shimoyama Ten (2005) and Seven Swords Chat gim by Hark Tsui (2005).
First up: Crouching Tinger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Acclaimed director Ang Lee made a movie called ‘Sense and sensibility’ in 1995, based on the famous book by the Bronte sisters. My wife loves that movie. There’s nothing special about that fact, except that this pure Elisabethian english movie about honour and gentlemanship spawns from the same source as the epic martial arts flic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Wo hu cang long). You might be thinking ‘Ang Lee…. I know I’ve heard that name not too long ago!‘. You’re right. After traditional England and thrilling China, mr. Lee brings us gay cowboys in the United States of America. Yes, Brokeback Mountain is his latest award winning movie.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or Wo hu cang long as it’s officially called, is an epic tale about kung fu masters chasing their dreams. The calm and confident swordsmaster Li Mu Bai is played by Yun-Fat Chow, who you may know from the movie Anna and the King, starring alongside Jodie Foster. Martial arts specialist Jet Li refused the role as he promsed his wife he’d skip work while she was pregnant. Yun-Fat Chow isn’t well known for his kung-fu skills, but he compensated that enough with his charismatic portrail of the Wudan swordsmaster struggeling with his life’s goals and ambitions. Supported by Michelle Yeoh as Yu Shu Lien, also a wushu master of the Wudan school and silently his lover. Michelle Yeoh only spoke cantonese, and had to learn her lines in mandarin chinese. Third lead character is Yen Yu, a rich man’s daughter with er own ambitions, played by Ziyi Zhang. Zhang, originally a dancer, brings grace and passion to movie. And sex-appeal. Lots of sex-appeal. Buckets of them.
The story is about these three people fighting what they think is expected of them and their own desires. Each comes from a different background, and deals with this struggle in his or her own way. Thrilling action sequences and beautifull scenery and stages makes this movie a must see for martial arts fans.
The movie uses a wide range of special effects to tell the story of kung-fu masters batteling eachother. Flying, huge jumps, spins and awe inspiring fighting scenes make this movie a big hit (4 oscars won). This makes this movie one of my favorites.
However, for a Chinese epic drama, this movie is told in true hollywood fashion. Plot lines are comprehensible, it has almost all of the classic clichés of a true love that is hard to get, passion between two youths, choices that need to be made, a final confrontation and all that. The story may be Chinese, but it’s been translated for the big (read: western) audiences. Some may feel this is a shame, but I’d rather take this movie at face value, and rate it as an entertaining and not too difficult to understand movie. Its huge success paved the way for many asian movies that have a higher budget and thus great casts, effects and cinematic artistry.