Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

[Written for The Herald]

Once upon a time, the Oscars used to give out awards for “Dance Direction.” These days the art of choreography goes mostly unnoticed at Academy Award time.

They should revive the award, or invent a new one, for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The award wouldn’t be for dancing, per se, but for the beautifully choreographed martial arts scenes in this hugely enjoyable movie. The fight choreographer is Yuen Wo-Ping, who also designed the kung fu action in The Matrix. His work here is literally breathtaking.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Bruce Reid, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

[Written for The Stranger]

The courtyards and compounds on display in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon pare elegant yet stifling domains, warmly beautiful but so hushed you can practically see the sounds being absorbed into the darkly lacquered wood. There’s no surprise, in these places, that legendary Wudan warrior Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) can never declare his love for fellow martial-arts expert Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh). When Li arrives at the home of his longtime friend and confesses to her that he’s retiring because his efforts to achieve enlightenment failed (his meditations instead leading him only to “a place of deep silence”), he might be describing the very room that holds their conversation, or even the conversation itself—a series of palpable desires and simmering glances whose meanings are left unspoken.

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Posted in: by Kathleen Murphy, Contributors, Film Reviews

A Dull Portrait of ‘The Lady’

The Lady, Luc Besson’s handsome biopic about Aung San Suu Kiy (Michelle Yeoh), may be largely a dramatic dud, but there are a couple compelling reasons to watch it. The saga of Burma’s Joan of Arc (recently triumphant) transcends pedestrian filmmaking, and one is grateful for Besson’s honorable, if undistinguished, effort to commemorate this Nobel Peace Prize winner’s decades-long stand against her homeland’s brutal military regime. What impact The Lady has comes mostly from the Zen-like beauty and radiance of Yeoh, and the dotty authenticity of David Thewlis, playing Suu Kiy’s steadfast British husband, Michael Aris.

Michelle Yeoh as Aung San Suu Kiy

The movie opens with Suu Kiy’s dad, who has just helped free his country from British rule, regaling his 3-year-old daughter with magical stories about the golden land that once was Burma, resplendent with tigers, elephants and sunshine. Then Aung San drives off to hammer out plans for democratizing the newly independent nation. When pistol-brandishing soldiers crash the party, Aung San closes his eyes and leans into his death, armored in a martyr’s calm. Many years later, in a very similar crisis, his daughter will reprise that expression of unyielding tranquility.

When we first meet the grown-up Suu Kiy, she’s an unprepossessing Oxford University academic and housewife, off to care for her ailing mother in Rangoon. She’s barely had time to register bloodied protestors and summary street executions before activist students and their profs begin streaming into her home — and suddenly the visiting housewife’s tapped as Burma’s savior.

These momentous events slide swiftly by on some remote plane, sans any credible dramatic development or soul-searching on Suu Kiy’s part. Even when the woman who’s never before spoken in public mounts a platform and the camera tilts up to reveal a horizon-spanning crowd, the punch gets pulled; what should be a terrific emotional rush is muted, almost perfunctory.

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