A Martial Arts Film With an Artistic Kick From Ang Lee

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A Martial Arts Film With an Artistic Kick From Ang Lee

The acclaimed Taiwanese-born director Ang Lee, who won critical success with the Jane Austen romantic comedy, "Sense and Sensibility" (1995) and the award-winning drama, "The Ice Storm" (1997), has now turned his versatile talents to a martial arts film, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

This Chinese-language martial arts film wowed audiences at last year's Cannes Film Festival, New York Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival, and has been climbing its way to the top of box offices in the United States and Canada. The movie opened in Korea last August, and attracted many Korean filmgoers.

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is based on Wang Du Lu's novel of the same title and revolves around the love of two couples. Set during the early 19th century Ching dynasty in China, the film was mostly shot in northern Tibet and Chinese Turkestan.

"My childhood imagination was mainly fired by the martial arts movies I grew up with and by the romance novels I read instead of doing my homework," he told "Sight and Sound" magazine.

Critics attribute the success of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," to the director's ability to blend a moving love story with beautifully executed martial arts. The film combines "fantasy, artistically crafted visual work and spirituality," a similar theme in such previous films as "The Wedding Banquet" (1993), "Eat Drink Man Woman" (1994) and "Ride With the Devil" (1999).

Mr. Lee identifies a major theme in his films as the conflict between "social obligation and personal freedom."

The director consciously used more subtle and poetic action scenes to set his movie apart from the violent and aggressive style of martial arts represented by such Kung-fu masters as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.

"Unless you use the action as an extension of the character and relationship, the audience won't be absorbed by the story," Mr. Lee says.

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," was named best film of the year by the Toronto Film Critics Association and the Los Angeles Film Critics. It won the best film award at the Taiwan Awards and received Golden Globe nominations last year for best foreign language film and best director.

by Kim Jae-seon

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