During China's Tang dynasty the emperor has taken the princess of a neighboring province as wife. She has borne him two sons and raised his eldest. Now his control over his dominion is complete, including the royal family itself.
During the Japanese invasion of 1937, when a wealthy martial artist is forced to leave his home and work to support his family, he reluctantly agrees to train others in the art of Wing Chun for self-defense.
In 19th century Qing Dynasty China, a warrior gives his sword, Green Destiny, to his friend to deliver to safe keeping, but it is stolen, and the chase is on to find it. The search leads to the House of Yu where the story takes on a whole different level.Written by
As Ang Lee, I grew up reading wuxia novels in Taiwan. Those novels usually mixed engrossing history, thrilling action, enchanting romance. But when these novels were made into movies or TV series, none of them could match my imagination. It's either because of wrong casting, bad acting, tedious costumes, sloppy storytelling, minimal budget (so everything is shot in studio rather than in the grand Chinese landscapes as they were told in books), fake action... I could go on and on. Now Ang Lee finally made a wuxia film that captures my imagination and fulfills my dream of childhood.
The casting of CTHD is perfect. No disrespect to Jet Li, but Jet Li would not make Li Mu Bai into what he should be: noble, wise but weary. Chow Yun Fat conveys the unspoken feelings of Li Mu Bai in a way I can't imagine anyone else can. But he's known for his acting, Michelle Yeoh was known for her fighting skills. Here in CTHD, she proves herself as an excellent dramatic actress. The secrete longing for Li and the confusion of Li's true feelings were clearly conveyed by her eyes. The scenes between them are heartbreaking. Zhang Zi Yi is a true discovery! What a wonderful talent to steal scenes after scenes from the veterans around her. She ran from looking innocent, haughty, feisty to loving and distraught. She made the complex Jen a real flesh and blood believable human being. Chang Chen made a perfectly sexy and charming bandit.
The scenery and the photography was beyond belief. The majestic landscapes of China match my imagination when I read all the beautiful Chinese poems of the Tang and Sung dynasties. No wonder those poets could come up with those masterpieces. They sure had the best inspiration. Peter Pau not only captured the landscapes and the settings, he also managed to capture the fast-as-lightening action wonderfully. The shot of Jen gliding over water just lodged in my mind. The soundtrack is also excellent. Tan Dun used different instruments to match the different locales. He mixed in Central Asian music in the desert sequence and Chinese flute in the Southern China scenes. Yo-yo Ma's cello in the main theme makes me want to weep everytime I hear it.
The storytelling was also done expertly. As a romantic-at-heart, I love the desert romance between Jen and Lo. It's one of the most charming and believable love stories that I can remember. Most people gave credit of the fighting to Yuen Wo Ping. I'd give kudos to Ang Lee. I've seen Yuen's martial art films before, but they're never done in such an imaginative and artistic way. The artistic vision has to come from Ang Lee.
To sum it up, three cheers for Ang Lee! You not only fulfilled your childhood dream, you fulfilled mine too. It's such a pleasure to finally see a wuxia novel be done right. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
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