On Tuesday, fans worldwide celebrated the release of one of the most unusual Oscar-winning films Hollywood has ever produced, Ang Lee's tribute to the Wuxia genre of films, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In an interview with ABC, the filmmaker remembered his worries while making the film, and the feeling that all his best efforts would not be able to help elevate a genre that had until then been considered "B-movie" fare.
"Halfway through our difficulties, I remember thinking this is a B-movie, supposedly. I'm fighting the genre, trying to make a great movie. I didn't have experience in martial arts. It's a very special skill and cinematic sense, which I learned from the Hong Kong crew -- the choreographer Yuen Wo-ping and the cinematographer Peter Pau. I learned so much about moviemaking. Not just about action, but about the essence of the medium."
While Hollywood has long been inspired by Wuxia films, that is, Chinese action films making use of wires to feature impossible martial feats, the truth is, the Wuxia genre itself was considered best suited for B-movie fare that was not to be taken seriously by critics. Lee, on the other hand, intended to make a serious, award-worthy film within the genre, and that involved using elements that audiences were familiar with, in terms of the action scenes, and layering them with a complex storyline and great actors.
"It was the toughest movie and the toughest part of my life. Making a film in China in 1998, 1999 was pretty impossible. Usually in martial arts films, you just focus on fighting scenes. I still wanted good fighting scenes. I also wanted a good art department, historical look, acting. I was just too greedy. It was kind of my childhood fantasy. I joke that it's a childhood fantasy and midlife crisis all clenched together."
Lee's gamble paid off. Upon its release, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was embraced by Hollywood audiences and critics alike. The film went on to be nominated for dozens of international awards and ended up winning four Oscars. Aside from being included in lists of the most influential movies of all time, Ang Lee also accepts that his film helped pave the way for other foreign filmmakers, and had an important part to play in the success of last year's Best Picture Oscar winner, Korea's Parasite.
"I wouldn't say [Parasite's Oscar win] happened because of me. But as people paved the way for me, I paved the way for that movie. And that movie paved the way for future moviemakers and goers. We're a community. We're all part of a history."
Lee was able to leverage the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon into a successful Hollywood career, which includes such notable movies as Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi. And the Wuxia genre was also able to benefit from Lee's win, as filmmakers started taking the genre more seriously and viewing it as more than a means towards showcasing kickass mid-air fighting sequences. This news originated at abcnews.go.com.