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Sitting down to watch the film again a decade after its release, there is no doubt that CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON ($25) deserves all the laurels trusted upon it, including its Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Art Direction, Best Original Score and Best Cinematography. Sure, some have said that CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON is derivative of various films from the fantasy and martial arts genres, while others have seen that this incredible motion picture truly unlike any other. With CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, director Ang Lee has fashioned a hauntingly lyrical movie with a soul, which employs stylish fantasy and martial arts elements. There is a depth of character and a depth of emotion in CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON that differentiates it from ordinary genre entries, which in comparison, seem almost superficial.

In my mind, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON remains an amazing motion picture experience. What I still love about CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON is its slow, deliberate pace, which allows its story to unfold with a tantalizing sense of Asian mystery, something that also allows enough time for the characters to fully develop. As expected, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON features some wonderfully fast paced martial arts fighting sequences. These sequences, choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping, rate amongst the most amazing martial arts sequences ever committed to film. Not only are they jaw dropping in their intensity; they are far more fluid and balletic than what one normally sees in a martial arts movie. However, under Ang Lee’s careful direction, the marital arts sequences remain complementary to the story and are never allowed to overwhelm it.

The plot of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON is beautifully simple, with the film's complexities lying in the relationships and emotions of its characters. For my money, Chow Yun-Fat is one of the most charismatic actors working on either side of the Pacific and he is ideally cast as Wudan master Li Mu Bai. Li Mu Bai is a world-weary warrior, who has seen enough of battle and seeks something more rewarding from life. Placing his sword, the Green Destiny, into the care of friend, Li Mu Bai looks forward to a peaceful retirement. However, a young warrior, who possesses tremendous skill, soon steals the sword from its new home. Honor dictates that Li Mu Bai recover the Green Destiny, however when he comes to recover the sword, he discovers that the young warrior’s master is Jade Fox (Pei-pei Cheng), who murdered Li Mu Bai's teacher years before and had stolen the secrets of the gravity defying Wudan discipline. Although Li Mu Bai still seeks the return of the sword, his quest takes on a new priority.

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON also stars Michelle Yeoh in a role that allows her to flex her acting muscles, instead of just showing off her martial arts prowess. As Shu Lien, Yeoh plays a woman whose life is very much entwined with that of Li Mu Bai. It is Shu Lien who delivers the Green Destiny to their mutual friend and, after the sword is stolen, it is she who traces it to the home of the governor. Also within the home, Shu Lien encounters the governor’s daughter Jen (Ziyi Zhang), who is so much more than a young girl facing the prospect of an arranged marriage, while she is secretly in love with another man. The cast of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON also features Chang Chen as Lo, the desert bandit known as Dark Cloud.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p presentation is really quite excellent and certain to please long time fans. CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON features an image that is silky and generally quite sharp, which beautifully recreates the dreamlike quality of Peter Pau's Academy Award winning cinematography. While a bit more diffuse than a new big budget action movie, the picture demonstrates a strong level of fine detail and texturing, especially in close-ups and medium shots. Additionally, the image displays an excellent level of dimensionality. Colors tend to be mildly subdued, but the flesh tones appear accurate. Blacks are deep and whites are completely stable. Contrast is understated and contributes the silky quality of the film’s cinematography. Shadow detail is usually quite good. A fine grain is present throughout and adds an organic quality to the presentation.

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON is presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtracks; with the original Mandarin language, being accompanied by an English dub for subtitle hating American audiences. Of course, I am going to recommend the Mandarin language track, since it is representative of the original performances. CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON wasn’t mixed like a modern action movie, so aggressive sound effects usage is constrained to the fight sequences, which are engaging, but not overdone. The sound design makes good use of the discrete channels to create a nicely atmospheric sonic environment. Subtle sound effects are generally placed in the surround channels, which are well utilized throughout the film to create a natural sense of envelopment. Since I don't speak Mandarin, I can't gage intelligibility, but the voices do sound natural and convincing. CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON features a superb film score by Tan Dun that includes haunting cello solos by musician Yo-Yo Ma. Thanks to the lossless encode, the musical component sounds better than ever. The bass channel is very solid and adds weight to the soundtrack, but never becomes overbearing. I did sample a bit of the English 5.1 channel soundtrack and the sound is fairly similar to the Mandarin track in tonal quality, but seems mixed at a slightly lower volume level. Those who absolutely refuse to read subtitles should find the English track serviceable, but be warned there are definite differences between the English language dub and the subtitles, with the subtitles offering more nuanced translations than the English dubbed dialogue. A French 5.1 Dolby TrueHD is also encoded onto the disc. French subtitles are also provided.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, most of which have been ported from previous DVD releases. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director Ang Lee and screenwriter James Schamus. This is a good, solid, informative track that benefits from the pleasant dispositions of both participants, who manage to keep the atmosphere light throughout their talk. From the Bravo network comes the twenty-one minute program- Unleashing The Dragon. This is a better than average making of featurette, with a bit more substance than fluff. More interesting is the thirteen minute Conversation With Michelle Yeoh, in which the actress talks about the challenge of making this film and working with director Ang Lee, as well as co-star Chow Yun-Fat. Yeoh also talks a bit about her career in martial arts movies and how this film has allowed her to demonstrate her dramatic abilities, in addition to her physical dexterity. A Photo Montage with costume designs and production photos is the last item ported from the DVD. New to Blu-ray is a running Audio Commentary with cinematographer Peter Pau, who offers a great deal of detail on his work and how he brought the director’s vision to fruition. Bonus Trailers close out the standard supplements. CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON is truly marvelous motion picture that richly deserves your time and attention. The Blu-ray presentation offers a really nice upgrade over its DVD counterpart. Recommended.


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon [Blu-ray] (2000)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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