In the world of fantasy martial arts films, the artisans can do anything from pugilism (inability to be harmed by anything) to the power of flight. In Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, "Wire-Fu" (flight) is center stage in this multifaceted and highly acclaimed cinematic event. Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) is a warrior of great renown. His sword, the Green Destiny was thought to be myth and legend. It's properties made it extremely light weight and gave it a green hue. Additionally, it could cut through absolutely everything. In the wrong hands, it could be a very powerful tool for evil and its bearer would be invincible. Anyway, CTHD opens with Li preparing to present the Green Destiny to Sir Te, a father figure and much respected elder in another province. Enlisted to perform this high honor is Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) a fellow warrior and soul mate of Li. After her meeting with Sir Te, Yu prepares to place the sword in the honored study of Sir Te. It is there that she meets a young aristocrat (Zhang Ziyi) who among other things is preparing to marry a man her parents have selected for her. The two exchange polite conversation and Yu advises that she carries the Green Destiny, the sword of the legendary Li Mu Bai. Later that evening, a "ninja"-esque warrior breaks into the Te household and steals the Green Destiny. A tremendous battle ensues between Yu and this mysterious thief and the thief makes off with Li's sword. What follows is a myriad of plot thickening complications that deal in love lost, love unrequited, honor, and destiny. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is a one of a kind film that ties a great many theatrical elements into one very entertaining and enthralling experience. For the past 30 years, these kinds of martial arts films have been made in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia. The better ones have benefited from the incredible talents of action choreographer, Yuen Wo Ping. For those wholly unfamiliar with his work, I direct you to the action segments of the Matrix.. His vision and detail are what with the Director's savvy, makes this film an experience like no other. As a fan of Martial Arts films, this is something akin to the holy grail of artisanship. Both visually and aurally stunning, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is a feast for the senses that lives up to all of the hype surrounding it.
There are several listening platforms from which to enjoy CTHD. English DD2.0W/Director's Commentary, English DD5.1, Mandarin DD5.1 and French DD2.0. The Director's Commentary featuring Ang Lee and Executive Producer James Schamus starts off something like a funny guy, straight guy kind of interaction between the two that eventually gets to the meat of the film in describing Lee's total desire to do this film from it seems his childhood. Simply put, this film is Lee's Sense and Sensibility with swords and wires. His inspiration came from author, Wang Du's five-part novel entitled Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. In it, the aspects and central themes in each character are fleshed out and given tremendous exposure. Lee's intent was to bring this novelization to the screen in a fanciful and magical way that would ignite the screen and en-trance the viewer. I'd say he was entirely successful. The commentary is screen specific and interesting to listen to. The problem however comes from trying to listen to the commentary while watching the events onscreen unfold. I thoroughly enjoyed Lee's Commentary but when you make a brilliant piece of work, it's hard to truly pay attention to what he's saying while, you're being dazzled with the events unfolding onscreen! I selected the Mandarin DD5.1W/English Subs for the review and was very pleased with the platform. There was not much in the way of surround effect other than elemental involvement (Storms, rain) and the fighting sequences. The surrounds were primarily used to convey Tan Dun's sweeping score accented by Yo Yo Ma's utterly fabulous cello. The video was equally impressive. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was presented in an anamorphically enhanced widescreen platform that was simply terrific in its presentation. The colors were rich and well saturated and the blacks were equally deep and true. There was no bleeding or mixing of the colors and the resultant image was/is impeccable. For an example of just how lush and beautiful the colors are see Chapter 19 for red content and Chapter 25 for green content. These colors and the saturation levels are pretty impressive to say the least.
In addition to the commentary track, the extras consist of: A 20-minute Bravo Channel produced segment on the making of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon entitled Unleashing the Dragon. It covers behind the scenes info, interviews with Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun Fat, Ang Lee and a host of producers, Exec Producers, and scriptwriting personnel. Both informative and detailed, this making of is nicely done and will keep your interest.
Conversation with Michelle Yeoh
Chronicling her career in martial arts movies, Yeoh describes the experience of working with Lee and how he brought out every side of her for the character of Yu. It also describes elements of the film that if you haven't seen the movie yet, you'd do better waiting till after you've seen the movie. Her appearance in this segment is totally different than anything you will have seen her as before. She is in a word…gorgeous.
Photo montage, filmographies, production notes and animated menus
This bit of pretty standard fare round out the extras on the disc. The montage is set to the score of the film as images from the film fade from one to the other. The Menus are very nicely done. From the start up of the disc, they lead you into Ang Lee's world of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. With each selection of a menu option, a fight scene is engaged and the menu choice is presented shortly thereafter.
I can't recommend this one enough. Academy Awards either presented or nominated for are not always a barometer as to the greatness (or lack of it thereof) of a film. In the case of Crouching Tiger however, the academy was dead on. Highly Recommended