Movie: Crouching in the Theater

“What did you think of Crouching Tiger?” I’m asked daily, as a long-time Kung Fu practitioner.

Listen, there are many good things about this movie: the choreography, the story, the cinematography, the locations, alone, are thrilling to see; it is what a kung fu movie should be, and most reviews I’ve heard seem to agree.But it is a another level of reactions that I must address.

Have you noticed there is always someone from the audience who will balk at the flying sequences? First of all, I thought them beautifully done, and well separated from the “normal” fighting. But that’s not really my beef. Why this obsession with the concept of people flying? It’s common to see the tight-assed inability of Euro-centric viewers to deal with someone else’s legendary or cultural concepts, but I still hate it. Perfectly happy to watch the ridiculous swagger of Arnold through millions of misfired shells only to save the world with his pinkie, the American sense of imagination doesn’t seem to extend beyond its borders. I think it appropriate to use an expression I hate: “Loosen up!” Are we so stone-hearted, so far from childhood and dreaming that we can’t accept the act of flying in a work of imagination? Each culture is suckled on its myths and grows from those myths to its real goals in adult life, never forgetting the thrill of heroism or the possibility of achievement. Flying men, pure hearted women, knights, saviors, heroes. If life can’t make room for those thoughts, then life is wrong.

So here is my answer to the opening question, the explanation that will set trembling hearts to rest, reconcile rational/obsessive minds, and allow enjoyment to fulfill. Kung Fu is not about fighting. It is about freedom, that is, the harmony between the will and the action. The flying sequences in Crouching Tiger represent the feeling of their high level engagements, the symbol of two perfectly free practitioners, the quality of a dream that links you with your past and your future.

O.K., now?

 

by Michelle Weaver

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