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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the multiple Oscar-winning movie from 2000 directed by Ang Lee. Unsurprisingly, this movie features martial-arts violence and battles. Most of these battles are bloodless, but one character is killed when a blade is hurtled into his forehead. Major characters are killed, and one death could be interpreted as suicide. Although the women are treated with complete equality and are equal to or superior to the men in judgment and combat, one female character expresses bitterness that she was not permitted to train as a warrior. A female lead character is called a "little whore." In one scene, sex is strongly implied between two characters, although there is no nudity. In another scene, a woman's nipples are exposed through her wet shirt.
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What's the story?
In CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, Yu Shu Lien (Michele Yeoh) runs a company that provides secure transport for shipments of goods to be sold. She is visited by Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat), who has come to give his famous sword to Sir Te, a mutual friend, for safekeeping. Li has been a warrior-hero, using the Green Destiny sword to fight for justice. He is tired of killing and wants to retire to a life of meditation, but instead of enlightenment he has found "endless sorrow" and that "something was pulling me back." He has one unfinished obligation: to avenge the death of his master at the hands of a villain named Jade Fox. And it may be that there was something else pulling him back: his love, never expressed, for Yu. At the home of Sir Te, Yu meets another guest, the pampered daughter of a governor named Jen Yu (Ziyi Zhang). Jen and Yu each dream of freedom. That night, the sword is stolen. Yu races after the masked thief to get it back. The thief has ties to Jade Fox. And Jen, soon to enter into an arranged marriage, has a secret love, the leader of a pack of desert bandits.
Is it any good?
This film is passionately romantic -- the story of two sets of star-crossed lovers who face enormous obstacles, within themselves as well as those imposed by the outside world. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a thrilling adventure saga that includes a magical 400-year-old sword called "Green Destiny," a warrior who must avenge the murder of his master, a handsome bandit, the spoiled daughter of a high-ranking official who dreams of the freedom to do what she wants, and the bitter villain who wants to destroy them all. It's dazzling, with breathtaking landscapes, gorgeous costumes, and magnificent cello music played by Yo-Yo Ma. And it has, unquestionably, the most brilliantly staged fight scenes ever put on film, possibly the best that ever will be put on film. Staged by Yuen Wo-Ping (of The Matrix), they're balletic masterpieces. As with the dance numbers of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, they are both mesmerizingly graceful and more eloquent than dialogue.
The story is told with great subtlety and power, giving it the quality of a myth or a collective dream. Yu reveals the identity of the masked thief by quietly allowing a teacup to slip out of her hands. When one person is able to catch it with a lightning-fast motion before it hits the floor, Yu knows that her suspicion was correct. When Li touches Yu's hand for the first time, it's a moment of heartbreaking intimacy. The quest for honor and justice could be set in the old West, in ancient Greece, in medieval times, in a 1930s San Francisco detective story, or in some Luke Skywalker-esque space fantasy. Its themes are enduring because they are inside all of us.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role of women in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. How have women historically been portrayed in martial-arts films and in action movies as a whole, and how are women portrayed differently in this movie?
What aspects of the movie seemed influenced by Westerns?
How did this movie stay close to the cinematic traditions of the martial-arts genre, and where did it bend the rules and try new things?
- In theaters: December 22, 2000
- On DVD or streaming: June 5, 2001
- Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi
- Director: Ang Lee
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Character Strengths: Courage, Gratitude
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: martial arts violence and some sexuality
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