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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

"We have a legend. Anyone who dares to jump from the mountain, God will grant his wish. Long ago, a young man's parents were ill, so he jumped. He didn't die. He wasn't even hurt. He floated away, never to return. He knew his wish had come true. If you believe, it will happen."
- Lo (Chen Chang)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: June 04, 2001

Stars: Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi
Other Stars: Chang Chen, Lung Shung, Cheng Pei Pei
Director: Ang Lee

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for martial arts violence and some sexuality
Run Time: 02h:00m:06s
Release Date: June 05, 2001
UPC: 043396059900
Genre: martial arts


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ AAA A-

DVD Review

Within the frenetic martial arts sequences, the breathtaking scenery, and the heartfelt emotion of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, one point stands out as the defining moment. It's a simple scene between two longtime friends sitting at a table, enjoying the other's company. Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat)‹a famous and amazingly talented warrior‹stares out into nature with complete understanding and contentment on his face. He tells Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) that he feels peace in this place, and wishes they could stay just there forever. This expression of love is more powerful than any single physical action, and his visage perfectly conveys this understanding in his heart.

This remarkable film from Ang Lee (Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm) tells a fascinating story about repressed love, personal revenge, hidden talents, and ancient legends, all based around the struggles of a young woman at a crossroads in her life. On the surface, Jen (Ziyi Zhang) is a demure girl who soon will enter a life of devotion in marriage. Hidden beneath this façade is a different person with jaw-dropping martial arts abilities who is searching for more out of life. Within the mix is Jade Fox (Pei-pei Cheng)‹the vicious and cold-blooded killer who murdered Li Mu Bai's master. This story comes together with remarkable force and clarity, and the end result is the greatest form of awe-inspiring cinema.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's major draw comes from its unbelievable martial arts sequences, certain to amaze even the most diehard fans of the genre. Fights occur across all different types of locations using a variety of deadly weapons. Yet these scenes are not bloodfests, designed to shock audiences with various stabbings and impalings. Instead, they serve as artistic dance, perfectly choreographed with skill and grace. In an early scene, Shu Lien chases a mysterious figure across the rooftops of Peking. While their fight is tense and filled with action, I found myself marveling more at the beauty of the setting and movements than at the pulse-pounding blows. As the two warriors drift across the rooftops, they float through the air with startling agility. They aren't really flying, but instead are accentuating normal movements with their fantastic abilities. Nothing on this scale has ever been seen before on screen, and the effect is breathtaking.

Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh both deliver incredible performances of power and emotion that carry the film. Every facial expression and physical action contains much more beneath the surface than what their characters portray. However, a good deal of this story's force and interest comes from newcomer Ziyi Zhang. Although dwarfed by Chow Yun Fat in size and stature, she holds her own with him completely, especially in their final confrontation amidst the swaying treetops. Zhang's character possesses a difficult combination of noble grace and rugged individualism, and she pulls it off with flying colors. It's nearly impossible not to fall for her stunning beauty while admiring her tough courage and skill. It's totally understandable why a desert warrior like Lo (Chen Chang) would become completely enamored with this girl. Zhang is an exceptional find and almost certainly has a successful career ahead of her.

When picking my best films for 2000, I listed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon third behind Almost Famous and Traffic. While each choice has its strong points, this story probably has the widest appeal to audiences because of its timeless aspects and visual majesty. Ang Lee has succeeded among a variety of genres in his career, but nothing matches the splendor of this film. Its emotional power jumps from the screen, and Tan Dun's elegant score remains in your heart for a long time. While the stunning martial arts action drew me in, it is the visual and personal beauty that has remained with me long after viewing this film. Countless scenes keep coming back to me again and again, all spurred by Lee's remarkable directing style.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The magnificent scenery and beautiful colors of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon burst from the screen on this impressive 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. While Li Mu Bai and Jen hover on the swaying trees far above the ground, the bright green hues of the leaves are a perfect shade. This is just one of numerous examples of awe-inspiring shots in this film, and justice is done to their majesty in this nearly pristine transfer. The images remain in focus throughout, and the black levels are solid. A few minor specks do appear early on, but they're long forgotten after viewing the wonderful colors. This picture works especially well during night scenes, where many transfers lose their focus and become grainy. Nothing of this type exists on this disc, and Columbia Tristar deserves high marks for giving this elegant film the visual treatment it requires.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Mandarin, Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This disc features a nice variety of audio transfers for both foreign-film lovers and audiences more comfortable with a dubbed version. I chose to view the complete movie in the original Mandarin language with an excellent 5.1-channel Dolby Digital soundtrack. This transfer perfectly conveys the emotions of Tan Dun's lush score and Yo-Yo Ma's melodic cello solos. Then it cranks up the power when the action heats up and the intense martial arts scenes begin. I found virtually nothing wrong with this track, which uses the surrounds impressively to create a wide-ranging and luscious sound field.

The 5.1-channel English version also works well, with the only noticeable difference being the dubbed dialogue. While it still bothers me to watch a film this way, this track does deserve credit for its complete nature. The dubbing doesn't appear ridiculous like some television versions, and obviously time was taken to make it acceptable. This probably stems from a major television deal to show the movie sometime in the future. The disc also includes decent 2.0-channel Dolby Surround tracks in both English and French.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Ang Lee and James Schamus
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:20m:10s

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo montage with accompanying score
Extras Review: Columbia Tristar has given Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon an impressive selection of supplements that enhanced my enjoyment of the film. The premier feature is a compelling feature-length commentary from director Ang Lee and executive producer/co-writer James Schamus. They have a good chemistry, with Lee providing most of the essential information. He exudes a witty, friendly demeanor that makes the track more interesting and enjoyable. The comments cover a lot of background into the martial arts culture of the story and the overall genre. Both speakers enjoy talking about the film, and they still remain focused on offering plenty of interesting thoughts. I especially liked hearing Lee speak about the phenomenon of the floating battles and how they relate to the Chinese culture.

This disc also contains two interview features that provide additional insight into the creation of this film. Unleashing Dragons is a Bravo documentary that provides a promotional overview of the story and some background. Conversations with Ang Lee, James Schamus, fight choreographer Yuen Won Ping (The Matrix), and composer Tan Dun give information on a variety of elements. I found the sections on the fight scenes especially interesting due to the amazing feats accomplished completely on wires. Also, Tan Dun and Yo-Yo Ma speak candidly about the awe-inspiring score and songs that carried the story. The main portion runs for about 15 minutes, and is immediately followed by a five-minute feature with more items about recording the soundtrack and Academy Award®-nominated song, A Love Before Time. The other featurette is a 13-minute interview with Michelle Yeoh, who discusses her career and the reasons she chose the role of Shu Lien. It's fascinating to note that Yeoh doesn't know Mandarin very well and had to struggle with pronunciations.

The remaining supplements are highlighted by a wonderful six-minute slide show of photos accompanied by music. These montages are fairly rare on discs, but they work much better for me than the duller still galleries. The shots include screen stills and behind-the-scenes moments, and the score matches the tone of the photos. Brief biographies and filmographies also exist for the major stars, Ang Lee, James Schamus, and Yuen Wo Ping. Finally, both the U.S. and international theatrical trailers. The American one highlights the action of the story, and doesn't really capture the magic of the setting. The other trailer is much more complete, with all elements showcased equally to provide the total picture. It's also notable that the U.S. version only mentions Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh, while the international one mentions all the leading players in the cast.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Arguably the most popular foreign-language film of all time, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon succeeds through a universal story that transcends all boundaries of language and culture. Winner of countless awards from all facets of the movie industry, this masterpiece features awe-inspiring scenery, an emotionally touching story, and possibly the greatest martial arts action of any film in history. With a top-notch cast, a beautiful score, and excellent directing, it easily stands as one of the best films of the past year.

 


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