Directed by: Ang Lee. When this came out, when I was a kid, I wasn’t really interested. Maybe I was just discovering Kubrick and Tarantino and Guy Ritchie—flash-bang, tough-guy movies. (Maybe I was just a racist kid! Who knows?) And even if I had seen it, it would have been utterly lost on me, the tremendous beauty, the gracefulness of this spectacle. Even now, there were moments where initially I had to combat my disbelief when all of the gravity-defying fight scenes kick in. My knowledge on Chinese film history and the wuxia genre is extremely limited—limited to the blurbs I saw on the huge documentary The Story of Film, which I’m in the middle of. But the short story is, I really enjoyed this, I understand why it made such an impact in Hollywood, Oscar awards, etc. Looking at the year it came out, though, I have to cynically project that Western audiences were primed for the idea of high-stakes, legit martial arts movies featuring extensive support wires to create a floating effect, by the enormous popularity and cultural impact of The Matrix. And, as I learned from the Story of Film doc, it’s no coincidence, because the martial arts coordinator for the Matrix movies, the guy who directly introduced that East Asian element that made those Hollywood films so fresh looking, Yuen Woo-ping, is an established martial arts film director in his own right, and he also did the martial arts choreography for this film. (He also choreographed the Kill Bill movies, The Grandmaster, and Once Upon a Time in Shanghai—how can I be so familiar with an artist and not know who they are!) Whatever the reason, I’m glad this movie penetrated through, both because it went a good way towards establishing Ang Lee in the West (if you don’t count the success of The Ice Storm and Sense and Sensibility, which were both great and successful, but I guess I’m erroneously measuring popularity in Hollywood as popularity among regular, dumb teenage audiences, like I was at this time). Anyway, as for the movie itself, it’s obviously a really powerful story, and the acting is amazing. I barely recognized the serene, masterful Chow Yun-fat as the same tortured, agonized cop hero in Hard Boiled (and not just because of the hair!). I’m ashamed to say my only acquaintance with Michelle Yeoh is from the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, which didn’t have an amazing role for Michelle (“Bond girl” roles are rarely amazing), but I remember her kind of stealing the show, in that scene where she’s handcuffed to bond on a speeding motorcycle, beating up bad guys as Pierce Brosnan weaves in and out of traffic. It was definitely the most memorable part of that movie, and one of the more interesting action sequences in a Bond movie I’ve seen. And Zhang Ziyi is one of those actors I felt like I had seen a billion times, like she’s an old pal, but in fact I’d barely seen any of her work, just The Grandmaster. But either way, news flash, she’s awesome in this movie. All that being said, I wasn’t super duper duper into the way the resolution of this movie came about. The subplot of the unresolved romance between Chow Yun-fat and Michelle Yeoh, the big antagonist with the “Jade Fox” character, it just didn’t click with me and I don’t know why. It just felt really rushed somehow. But either way, I also picked up House of Flying Daggers to look at, to give me a little bit of an idea about what this subgenre of wuxia films is all about.