Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Hiiy- Ya! Chinese Protofeminism kicks Ass, says Janet Evans

Janet Evans, 16 October 2001

This film has tremendous performances from Chow Yun Fat in his first action role and Michelle Yeoh as his star crossed lover. The fight scenes are improbably dazzling and once again Yuen Wo Ping choreographs the film out of its own league.

The Director, Ang Lee has made the film palatable to American and European audiences. Check out the genre change as Jen (Zhang Ziyi) chases her lover across the desert and the film magically becomes a western.

The three main female characters all centre around the figure of Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat). They all show different kinds of female role. Wife, Daughter and the woman who is rejected by society for her refusal to take on one of these valid roles.

Jen, the main protagonist is fighting against traditional Chinese values in the form of an arranged marriage. She is a gifted martial arts expert under the tuition of the rogue Jade Fox. Li Mu Bai wants to teach her himself. He acts as a legitimator for the two women fighters. They learn under his influence.

It is interesting to note that the 'good' women in the film accept the authority of men in the form of Li Mu Bai, whereas the 'bad' woman, Jade Fox refuses to accept this. Jade Fox is excluded from society for stealing secret wisdom, which has only previously been available to Men. Jen is only allowed this knowledge when she redeems herself by turning to her father figure Li Mu Bai. This shows brilliantly the struggle between Chinese women and traditional patriarchal influence. Jen keeps her femininity by having a male lover and becoming accountable to Li Mu Bai, agreeing to be the first woman to enter a school of fighters under his tuition.

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon must be seen, as the film is a visual masterpiece with amazing scenery and out of this world choreography. It offers a high-quality, subtle plot with full character exploration, repression and mega girlie fighter action. The film has also won four Oscars and four Baftas, so this should be an indication of its tremendous quality. It is also the first film to bring Chinese cinema to western audiences on a large scale.

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