A new exhibition at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image is currently featuring Chinese film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as one of the best examples of craftsmanship in the history of film.
Now in its third year, the final installation of a three-exhibition series—PERSOL MAGNIFICENT OBSESSIONS: 30 stories of craftsmanship in film—at the Museum of the Moving Image explores the stories of some of the world’s greatest filmmakers and their dedication to perfection. The exhibition looks at the artistic processes of the most respected directors, designers, writers, actors, and technicians on films legendary for their workmanship: this iteration of the exhibit focuses on figures such as actor Johnny Depp for his role in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, editor/sound designer Walter Mruch for his use of sound in Apocalypse Now, and production designer Jeannine Oppewall for her work in Catch Me If You Can.
Among the 30 celebrated stories, two Chinese-themed films have been featured in the exhibition series. Previously, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s work in the 1988 Oscar Best Picture winner The Last Emperor (1987), a biopic about the last emperor of China, “Pu Yi”, was brought into the limelight in the second installation from June 14 through August 19, 2012. This year, the final installation spotlights acclaimed Taiwanese director Ang Lee and his film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). Lee, winner of 2013 Best Director Oscar for Life of Pi, is the only Chinese filmmaker illuminated in the exhibition; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the only Chinese-language film among all thirty stories.
The exhibition offers the chance to see Lee’s “obsession with poetry and motion” in close distance: the extensive research undertook by the crew, the exhaustive preparation, the precise detailing of action sequences, and the uncompromising spirit of pursuing cultural authenticity. On exhibit are Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s location scouting photos, behind-the-scenes diagrams, and a roomful of weapon props from the set; and of course, the chased-after treasure in the film—the Green Destiny sword.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is one of the most internationally acclaimed Chinese films ever made. It made a splash at the 2001 Oscars, earning four awards out of ten nominations. The film is Lee’s rendering of a wuxia (Hong Kong action) story and is known for its extensive fight scenes and challenging shooting situations. In contrast with most martial arts films, which are usually shot in a studio, Lee and his crew shot the film in diverse locations in China, from Anhui to Xinjiang, from bamboo forest to deserts to waterfalls.
Over the last two decades, Lee has received international award nominations for various films, including The Wedding Banquet (1993), Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), Sense and Sensibility (1995), The Ice Storm (1997), Hulk (2003), Brokeback Mountain (2005), and Lust, Caution (2007).
The exhibition opened on July 11, and this final installment will be on view through November 10.