crouching tiger, hidden dragon (2000)
director: ang lee
chow yun-fat, michelle yeoh

. Probably the most gifted director working today, Ang Lee has returned to his roots -- the fantastically kinetic martial arts epics that are a staple of the Chinese film industry -- with his latest film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Lee, however, is not a product of the Hong Kong studios that usually produce these films. His body of work, from Pushing Hands and Eat Drink Man Woman to Sense and Sensibility and Ride with the Devil -- his last, tragically ignored Civil War film -- is as calm and careful as Chinese historical martial arts epics are usually frantic and careening.

So it is that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is probably the most poetic, graceful film produced in the genre, without sacrificing any of the action or widly complicated plot that fans cherish. The acrobatic, wire-fighting duels will be familiar to North American audiences thanks to The Matrix and Charlie’s Angels, but they originated in the martial arts epic, as a way of showcasing the inhuman discipline and skill of both the heroes and villains. 

Michelle Yeoh and Chow-Yun Fat are veterans of Hong Kong cinema, and make a compelling heroic couple -- two master adepts whose sense of duty has kept them apart, and whose introduction to each new character is usually the occasion of some jaw-dropping fight sequence that runs up walls and across tiled roofs. One scene in particular -- a sword battle on the swaying tops of a bamboo grove -- is already considered one of the most perfect, breathtaking scenes committed to film in decades.