For this past class, we watched Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Although it wasn’t a King Hu movie, it was interesting to see parts that were clearly influenced by King Hu movies and some key differences that made me appreciate King Hu’s style.
One of the biggest things I noticed was how Ang Lee staged his fighting scenes. For the most part, when the characters had their big showdowns, they would have them in large flat areas like an empty courtyard (where the policeman faced off against Jade Fox) or an actual training area (where Yu Shu Lien and Jen Yu fought). While this allowed for the action to not be obscured by objects, it made the space feel very desolate. Although the settings were beautiful, they also felt very flat.
Whereas King Hu seemed to love to fill his settings, from the foreground to the background. As I’ve commented on in my post for The Valiant Ones, King Hu’s technique of placing things between the camera and the characters even when they’re fighting creates a depth that actually makes the fight more exciting. It’s as if you’re really a part of the scene and you have to move to keep up with the fighting else they’ll disappear from your view.
An exception in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was during the tavern scene with Jen Yu as she jumped from place to place in the crowded space. It almost felt like a nod to King Hu’s tavern fights in Dragon Inn, Come Drink With Me, and even The Fate of Lee Khan.