Hit me with best shot is back with another gorgeous film this week, as we gazed on Ang Lee's lush wuxia epic "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". This remarkable film still holds a firm grip on the record for highest-grossing foreign language film and the reasons for this are abundantly clear. For Western audiences, it provided familiar Hollywood escapism (epic production values, sweeping romance and exciting action) while also upholding intriguing aspects of the more Eastern filmmaking easthetic (the parable-like storytelling, subtlety of emotion and graceful wire fu). This compelling duality is never more apparent than in the beautiful flashback where headstrong Jen (Zhang Ziyi) reluctantly falls in love with Lo (Chang Chen).
Click below for my favourite shot...
When you look at this image, you could easily mistake the film for a traditional Western. From afar they resemble duelling cowboys on horseback and the backdrop could almost pass for Monument Valley. A closer look at the costumes and weapons however, shows the true nature of the scene.
What I found so fascinating is how the epic visual concept of this scene gives way to the subsequent intimacy in the cave. Furthermore, I love how the romance develops without betraying Jen's strong, independent personality. As you can assume from this image, these are a pair of equals and Jen seems to have the upper hand with her bow and arrow. Indeed, she isn't a harmless, stubborn woman waiting for the right man to come and make her happy.
It's all in keeping with the film's strikingly feminist bent, as the 3 main female characters are every bit the equal (superior even) of their male counterparts in combat. They exist in a oppressively partiarchal society, but they manage to assert their strength and still maintain their romantic appeal. This balance of bombast and serenity is deftly woven into the fabric of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and it's a large part of what makes the film so great.