Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: how Ang Lee’s martial arts traditional mixes sword combating, romance and feminine empowerment
The movie has a number of storylines within the method of traditional martial arts novels, though the tales converge within the Western fashion somewhat than criss-cross in parallel streams, as in wuxia literature.
By means of Jen, Li turns into conscious of the presence of the vicious Jade Fox (wuxia legend Cheng Pei-pei), the renegade martial artist who killed his grasp. Then the story begins to coalesce round Jen’s relationship with the charismatic desert bandit Darkish Cloud (Chang Chen).
Ang Lee, who’s Taiwanese, says he was impressed by the martial arts novels he learn as a baby. “The best enchantment of the kung fu world lies in its abstraction. It’s a conceptual world primarily based on an imaginary China. This world doesn’t exist in actuality, and is subsequently free from constraints,” says Lee within the guide Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: A Portrait of the Ang Lee Movie.
“Right here I can specific sentimentality: motion scenes play like choreographed dances. There are not any limitations. It’s a free and unrestrained type of filmmaking,” Lee continues.
Two different notable scenes make ample use of wirework methods. A sequence through which Chow fights Zhang within the treetops of a bamboo grove makes use of complicated wires to make the performers leap by way of the branches. The wires had been digitally faraway from the photographs in post-production.
“Yuen is a grasp of offering thrills for the viewers,” says Lee. “He is aware of every thing about Chinese language kung fu motion scenes. However he’s additionally very cultured. He has a variety of respect for the classical martial arts fashion, and the traditions of Chinese language opera, with its stylised actions and acrobatics.”
Yuen makes use of the motion to precise emotion, Lee says. “In Yuen’s choreography, the martial artwork turns into a performing artwork.”
The sword fighters in Crouching Tiger skilled at Wudang Temple, a legendary place within the Wudang mountains in Hubei, whose exponents are generally introduced because the enemy of Shaolin martial artists in kung fu films.
Wudang is considerably totally different to Shaolin, because it’s rooted in Taosim somewhat than Buddhism. It’s a good selection for a sword combating movie like Crouching Tiger. The actual-life Shaolin monks – regardless that they had been adept with swords – had been recognized for his or her talent at combating with poles. However Wudang martial artists are famous for his or her talent with straight swords, and developed a method often known as “Wudang Sword”.
Wudang martial arts are primarily based in esoterica and mysticism somewhat than the Buddhist practicalities of Shaolin, however such concepts usually are not explored in Crouching Tiger. Regardless of its Asian context, the film follows the Western narrative path of exploring private relationships and particular person growth somewhat than the philosophies of jiang hu (the martial arts world.)
Schamus says that this was intentional, as Crouching Tiger was aimed toward American and worldwide audiences, and the Taiwanese rewrite was tailored right into a kind that may be simply accessible to mainstream Western audiences. However the talent of the filmmakers means this uncommon strategy to wuxia provides to the movie’s contribution to the style, somewhat than detracts from it.