This morning, I read an (old) NYT article that discussed whether Michael Bay flicks, notably Transformers 3, could be appreciated on some level for their aesthetic style. I am insulted on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's behalf. The one thing I remembered about this movie, which I haven't seen since it was in theatres, and one of the reasons I bought it, was that it was gorgeous. And it is. The fight scenes, the desert, the bamboo grove, my god, the bamboo grove! To me, its one of the most elegant and delicately beautiful films I've ever seen. Now, I haven't seen a lot of kung-fu flicks, so maybe they're all stunning. But this one is my particular poison.
Over and above how much I respond to the look of the movie, I really dig the ideas, too. I think you could work up a pretty interesting feminist reading of this movie. You've got Jen chasing and trying to wield the big old phallus (played here by the Green Destiny sword) only to learn that what really matters in combat, and in life, is experience and maturity. Also, as any graduate student writing a dissertation can tell you, there's no worse mistake than picking the wrong mentor. (However, even Jade's villainy stems from patriarchy. To paraphrase Chris Rock talking about OJ Simpson, I'm not saying she should have done it, but I understand.) In some ways (except for the end, which I'll talk about in a second) this reminds me of a superhero origin story--we watch Jen grow up, come into herself as a woman, and learn to manage her remarkable gifts.
I'm also a sucker for a good why-god-why love story, and this film has two of them! I really like the idea that these brave, kick-ass warriors are all crap at love and talking about their feelings. Along those lines, how do you read the leap at the end, Nat? Has Jen finally learned to be selfless and is giving her wish/life so Shu Lien and Mu Bai can be together? Or is she such a Giang Hu rock star that the fall won't even kill her?