When Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) has his famous jade sword presented to Governor Yu, he hopes it marks the end of his violent career. But soon the sword is stolen and the murderer of his mentor appears to be back.
You may never see a more beautiful movie - and certainly no more majestic film has yet been made. In a bizarre way it's reminiscent of Woody Allen's "Manhattan", where the visuals are so striking as to flood your mind.
It's impossible to forget, either, and you will find yourself weeks later dwelling on individual shots with the intensity you might pay to a painting.
A scene with warrior monks, for instance, balanced on the frond-thin branches of a tree high, high in the air is utterly convincing and even - no kidding here - mesmerising. And yet while a single shot can be so marvellous as to make your jaw go down and your eyebrows go up, often director Ang Lee will linger on them too long.
Suddenly the beautiful can seem to be the very silly indeed. And the fall that was so startling becomes just another startling fall in what feels like a very long story.
You have to see it - it's a reaffirmation of spectacle and the beauty of cinematography - and you have to see it on the big screen. Even DVD is not going to do this justice.
But don't expect to be caught up in the slight story. Lee's tried to tell it in a Chinese style, and it's great that he's done so, but the effect is that the story wears you down rather than engrosses.
Read a review of the DVD.
Visit the official website for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon".
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