Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (China/ Hong Kong/ Taiwan/ USA, 2000)
Directed by Ang Lee
Starring Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen
One of the traps with reviewing cinema outside of the Hollywood mainstream is assuming that difference equates to higher quality. We're so used to the American approach to storytelling and characterisation, with Hollywood-style films being made all over the world, that the second someone comes along with a slightly different approach, we assume that it must have some greater value. This over-valuing can lead to greater misconceptions about the cultures from which such films emanate, leading us to regard as paradigm-shifting art what said culture regards as derivative, third-rate trash.
Life of Pi, for which he eventually won the Oscar for Best Director. With the possible exception of Hulk, Lee has always managed to strike an enviable balance between visual poetry and detailed characterisation. While the narratives in his films aren't always the most complex or profound, he has a knack of continually pulling us back toward the underlying story, where many lesser directors would get lost in the pyrotechnics.
Warriors of Virtue, a tedious affair noted for its incoherent, blurry action scenes.
The Matrix trilogy and later lent his talents to Kill Bill.
A Place in the Sun, or to a lesser extent Gojira. But Crouching Tiger uses its restrictions more proactively, using our foreknowledge to justify its emotional arcs all the more. Lee repeatedly uses very tight close-ups to force us to read into the characters' faces, and Zhang Ziyi in particular is very adept at making even the slightest smile or tiniest flicker of her eyes seem deeply meaningful.
NEXT REVIEW: Catch Me If You Can (2002)