Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
Taiwan/Hong Kong/USA/China, 2000. Asia Union Film & Entertainment Ltd., China Film Co-Production Corporation, Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, Edko Films, Good Machine, Sony Pictures Classics, United China Vision, Zoom Hunt International Productions. Screenplay by James Schamus, Hui-ling Wang, Kuo Jung Tsai, based on the novel by Du Lu Wang. Cinematography by Peter Pau. Produced by Li-Kong Hsu, William Kong, Ang Lee. Music by Dun Tan. Production Design by Tim Yip. Costume Design by Tim Yip. Film Editing by Tim Squyres. Academy Awards 2000. Boston Film Critics Awards 2000. Golden Globe Awards 2000. Independent Spirit Awards 2000. National Board of Review Awards 2000. New York Film Critics Awards 2000. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2000. Toronto International Film Festival 2000.
Ang Lee combines traditions of classic martial arts cinema, Asian period dramas and his own sensibilities of emotional realism for a deftly perfect movie experience. Yun-Fat Chow is excellent as a great warrior who gives his magical jade sword to a good friend, only to see it stolen by a masked thief. He teams up with Michelle Yeoh, a woman with fighting talents equal to his who has also been his heart’s keeper for most of his life, to retrieve the sword and avenge the death of their master at the hands of the evil woman known as Jade Fox. Thrown into the mix is Ziyi Zhang, making her international debut as the daughter of the house from whom the sword was stolen, whose own history of thwarted love is intricately linked with the recovery plot. The story says pure adventure, but Lee elicits such beautifully tender work out of all of his actors that the feelings of the movie run deep. The fight scenes, which employ the characters’ magical abilities to dance on walls and fly through the air, have a ballet-like grace that is as fluid and lush as the exquisite acting. An astonishing achievement, and deservedly one of the highest points of international cinema of its decade, the film won four Academy Awards and tied with Fanny And Alexander for the most Oscars won by a Foreign-Language Film.