Feminist martial arts movie wows Cannes crowd (2000-05-17)


CANNES, France - A feminist martial arts film that blends beautifully choreographed, computer-manipulated fight scenes and Chinese legend is creating a sensation at the Cannes Film Festival.

Directed by Taiwanese-born Ang Lee, ``Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'' is a breath-taking epic love story set in a mythical China, where saber-wielding Taoist masters -- most of them women -- save the day. ``The film is a kind of a dream of China, a China that probably never existed, except in my boyhood fantasies in Taiwan,'' said Lee, whose other films include ``Sense and Sensibility,'' ``The Wedding Banquet'' and ``The Ice Storm.''

``Of course, my childhood imagination was mainly fired by the martial arts movies I grew up with and by the novels of romance and derring-do I read instead of doing my homework,'' he added.

Based on a novel by Wang Du Lu, ``Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'' is about the struggle to recover the legendary Green Destiny sword from a mysterious thief and kill Jade Fox, a notoriously evil female criminal.

This is the basis for a rip-roaring, fantastic adventure in which duelists soar through the air, walk up walls and wipe out hulking brutes with their lightning reflexes.

The stupefying fight scenes were choreographed by Yuen Wo-Ping, who also worked on science-fiction thriller ``The Matrix.'' ``

My team and I chose the most populist, if not popular, genre in film history -- the Hong Kong martial arts film -- to tell our story and we used this pop genre almost as a kind of research instrument to explore the legacy of classical Chinese culture,'' Lee explained.

``The drama is itself choreographed as a kind of martial art, while the fighting is never just kicking and punching, but is also a way for the characters to express their unique situation and feelings,'' he said.

The action unfolds amid enchanting dream-like settings and the spectacular landscapes of northern Tibet and Chinese Turkestan, where the film was shot.

``Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'' also tells the story of the unrequited romance between Mi Lu Bai (Chow Yun Fat of ``Anna and the King'', a master of the Wu Tang school of martial arts, and an equally formidable female warrior, Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh).

Other central characters include a beautiful governor's daughter, Jen (Zhang Ziyi), who is promised to a man she does not want to marry, and her passionate desert-dwelling bandit of a lover, Lo (Chang Chen).

The buzz at Cannes is that ``Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'' has all the elements to become a cult classic. Unfortunately, it is not in competition for the festival's Golden Palm award.

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