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Crouching Tiger's hidden world of dreams

Review by Alice Kim | April 13, 2001 | Page 15

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, directed by Ang Lee, starring Zhang Ziyi, Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh.

"I WISH I were like the heroes I read about in the books," says Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi) in the opening scene of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. With that, the audience is whisked away into a dream world, where anybody can be a warrior--with beautifully choreographed fight sequences that take place on rooftops and even in the branches of willowy trees.

Crouching Tiger has made a huge splash in the U.S. At last month's Academy Awards ceremony, the movie won the best foreign—language film award, along with Oscars for best cinematography, art direction and original score. It now ranks as one of the U.S.'s most popular foreign-language films of all time--and with good reason.

The story follows Jen, the daughter of a high-ranking governor in ancient China, as she crosses paths with the renowned fighters Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) and Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) as they mount an effort to retrieve Li Mu Bai's stolen sword. But Crouching Tiger is more than an action-packed martial arts fantasy.

It's also about the contradictions that the main characters face as their desires clash with reality. As the movie progresses, they struggle to overcome social conventions intended to keep them in their place.

Jen attempts to escape an arranged marriage that will benefit her father's career. Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien try to come to terms with a romance never pursued. And an anonymous female warrior known as Jade Fox rebels against the male-dominated culture that doesn't permit women to attend martial arts schools.

Successfully woven together, these subplots create an intensely moving film. Plus, the acting is brilliant.

One exciting aspect of Crouching Tiger is its women characters--who are fierce and defiant fighters, each with a sense of dignity. They're a far cry from the typical portrayal of women in Hollywood action films--as, at most, sex objects who can "kick ass," like the stars of Charlie's Angels.

Crouching Tiger is scheduled to be out on video in June. But because of the Oscar hype, it's still in theaters. Don't miss it on the big screen!

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