Near the end of The Maltese Falcon there is a famous line spoken by Humphrey Bogart. Throughout the movie everyone had been on the hunt for something called The Maltese Falcon (not to be confused with the somewhat more exciting Millenium Falcon), no the Maltese falcon was (disappointingly) just a sculpture of a bronze falcon from the island of Malta. This of course was not enough for some of the characters and possibly the screenwriters and the studio execs either, so they had somebody ask Bogart’s character this question: What exactly IS the Maltese Falcon? Well after chasing it for the entire movie, Bogart had no choice but to reply, in his best Peter Brady impression, “The stuff that dreams are made of.”
This quote, being one of the most famous lines in movie history, has evolved over the years to refer to the movies themselves. Q. What are movies? A. The stuff dreams are made of. Well, those days have come and gone and very few movies actually try and reach a dreamlike state. Some of them have and are on this very list. But one of the most dreamlike of all the movies on our list is a little flick called Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. I do not mean to imply that it is bizarre and inscrutable as so many dreams are, but merely the fluidity and calm relaxation of the story lends itself to certain dreamlike images, not the least of which is the fact that the characters in Crouching Tiger can fly.
The characters in Crouching Tiger are aware that the other martial artists can fly and there is a wonderful bit of choreography whereby Shu Lien played by Michelle Yeoh has to keep stepping on Ziyi Zhang’s feet to literally keep her on the ground. Speaking of fight choreography, it was planned out by one of the best; Yuen Wo Ping, who also did the fight sequence for The Matrix. As well as Fist of Legend and some other classic Chinese movies, I suppose. However at the risk of insulting the fanboys, may I submit that his work here in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is his best? You do have to display a little fanboy patience however before the first fight even begins, but once it does, it goes on for a nice long while. Characters start hopping over roofs and climbing walls to a fabulous score by Oscar winner Tan Dun.
Another scene takes place among blowing bamboo trees (technically bamboo is a grass not a tree, but it matters not as Chow Yun Fat can balance perfectly on both). Another fight scene showcases pretty much every martial arts weapon there is, each weapon being eventually broken or destroyed by a magical ancient sword called The Green Destiny which everyone in the movie is after (an idea stolen from an earlier movie called The Maltese Falcon, perhaps you’ve heard of it).
Hidden Dragon was directed by a guy named Ang Lee who also directed Sense and Sensibility which, while better, is sadly lacking in kung fu … and therefore loses points on the adventurometer. He also made Hulk about a big green monster guy in purple pants who is repressed, but the less said about that the better. At first you may seem impressed that Ang Lee does such wildly different films until you realize that they are ALL about repression. Nobody wants to say who they truly are or how they truly feel about the other characters and there are a few surprises a long the way. Do not be put off by this, however because despite the oscar-baiting theme of repression the film both figuratively and literally soars to new heights and depending on your acceptance of fairy stories from the desert, it has either or hopeful or a tragic ending.
Plus it was made for only 17 million dollars in 2000 which is a staggeringly low budget for any movie let alone an action movie.
Next up … 76!