Every movie should be as kinetic and romantic as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and every tie-in book should be as smart and lovely to look at as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: A Portrait of the Ang Lee Film. It has sumptuous color photos of the otherworldly locations, from the Gobi desert to Anji's bamboo forest; an ace essay by Time's Richard Corliss, the best prose stylist among film critics; and it's studded with scads of factoids and reminiscences from the director, the stars, and--most helpfully--the film scholar David Bordwell.
Bordwell explains what the heck the title means (dragons denote hot, rebellious youth, characterizing the lovers Jen and Lo, and the repressed passion smoldering within the older, thwarted lovers, Yu Shu Lien and Li Mu Bai), the film's place in Chinese cinema history (wuxia martial-arts films are a titanic tradition rooted in folk tales), and all manner of intriguing arcana briskly noted in a lively style. Lee tells how the film squares with his other works like Sense and Sensibility: "In a family drama, there is a verbal fight. Here, you kick butt." Though one does wish it were longer, this thoughtful, beautifully laid-out book moves the spirit--plus, it kicks butt. --Tim Appelo [via]