Feb 19, 2023

Whatever Path You Take In This Life, Be True To Yourself

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Cinemark - Moosic, PA
One of the most challenging things I found about signing up for an account on Letterboxd was the option to pick my four favorite films.  It doesn't ask for your favorite action films, or comedies, or crime dramas... just your four favorite films of all time, period.  I changed my mind on the things that I have listed at the third and fourth spot quite a few times before I settled on Pulp Fiction and The Big Lebowski, but the first two on the list were movies that I didn't even really have to think about.

Rocky and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon are my two favorite movies ever made.  It would be pretty hard for me to choose my all time favorite out of the two because I experienced them in very different ways.  Rocky was released in theaters three and a half years before I was born.  I saw it for the first time on home video when I was a teenager, and I already knew the story before I saw the movie because it had become a part of pop culture (especially in Eastern Pennsylvania).  The movie still had a profound effect on me, but I can only imagine that it would have been even more impactful if I was a teenager in 1976 and had gone to see it in the theaters for the first time, with my only expectations coming from the trailer and newspaper advertisements that promoted the film.

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was a very different experience for me.  I was at Battery Park in March 2001 and there was a restaurant within walking distance of the hotel called Lili's Noodle Shop & Grill where I had dinner.  This is where I had real ramen for the first time (in other words, ramen that didn't cost ten cents that I made in the microwave).  The restaurant had a "dinner and a movie" deal that allowed you to add a voucher for a movie ticket at the theater next door to your check for a discounted price, so I did that without really having a movie in mind that I wanted to see.

After dinner, I went next door to see what was playing and I saw that Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was scheduled to start in about ten minutes.  It had gotten a lot of positive buzz at the time so I was aware of its existence.  I didn't really know what it was about, but I figured that they make thousands of movies in other countries every year and very few of them ever get a wide release in the United States, so for this one to be getting so much good publicity, it has to be a pretty good movie.  So, I cashed in my voucher, took my seat, and spent the next two hours being absolutely blown away by the story that unfolded on the big screen.

This was the most incredible experience that I've ever had at a movie theater in my life.  I'm sure a big part of what made me connect so strongly with it was that I was going through a lot of stress.  I was 20 years old, and my mental health was not at all in a good place.  I went to New York because I wanted to escape and forget about everyone and everything for a little while and let my mind calm down and reset.  Although I didn't realize it when I got the ticket, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was exactly what I needed in that moment in my life - a two hour escape from my life into a beautiful world with lush landscapes, an amazing cast of deep characters, two incredible love stories that are told throughout a story of revenge and regret, and some of the best fight scenes I have ever seen before or since.  This movie told me a story that made me feel like the world around me had disappeared and been replaced with theirs, and it came at a time in my life when I needed it.

I ended up seeing the movie in theaters two more times after that first time.  The second time was at a movie theater in Parsippany, New Jersey that I stopped at on my drive home from New York.  The third and final time was at the Hoyt Theater (which is now a Regal Cinema) in Hazleton, PA after I got back home.

The DVD was released in the summer of 2001, and I watched it so many times over the past 22 years that I don't think I even need the English subtitles to enjoy the film.  It's not that I've learned Mandarin Chinese, but I have so much of the dialogue memorized through sheer repetition that a translation is no longer necessary.  I've only watched the English dubbing of the film one time, and I have no desire to do so again.  I'm not trying to be a film snob, but it's just not the same.

I never thought I'd have the opportunity to experience this movie on the big screen again, but it's been re-released in theaters in the United States starting this weekend.  They're not screening it at my local Regal Cinema, but Cinemark in Moosic is showing it and it's definitely worth the extra miles to see this incredible movie at a theater one more time.

If you haven't seen it, this is your chance and I can't recommend it strongly enough.  Even if you're not into martial arts films, this is such an incredible movie that there is no one I can think of who wouldn't enjoy it.