A blessedly small-scale scrap after last time’s chaos.
3) Li Mu Bai vs Jen Yu (round two)
- Li Mu Bai, the legendary etc etc. Played by Chow Yun Freaking Fat.
- Armed with: his own Green Destiny sword, though he doesn’t really use it against her as such. Also, a stick.
- Jen Yu, a very confused young girl. Played by Zhang Ziyi.
- Armed with: a standard taijijian. Man, look at all the dots that word has.
The Setup: After some not-so-subtle hints to her civilian identity from Yu Shu Lien, Jen decides to secretly return the sword that caused all this trouble. After doing so she runs into Li Mu Bai, who’d been waiting for her. He’s intrigued with her abilities and, we later learn, is concerned about how much influence Jade Fox has had on her. He pursues her to a temple and offers to train her, but Jen, chafing at years of repression and an upcoming arranged marriage, is in no mood to call any man “master.” She opts to start attacking him instead, which is unwise– this guy’s one hard-boiled killer who could give her a better tomorrow.
The Fight: Li Mu Bai demonstrates his superiority by parrying all her blows without even removing Green Destiny from its sheath, and lands several strikes on her that would have been crippling or even lethal if they’d been with an actual blade. She continues to act stubborn in the face of a clear master, so he gives her a real shock by unsheathing Green Destiny and breaking off a chunk of her sword in one single move. “Real sharpness comes without effort!” he declares. Okay, sure.
He chases her out front and continues to fight her, this time defeating her sword strikes with a simple stick he finds on the ground. All the while he’s spouting fortune cookie soundbites at her: “No growth without assistance. No action without reaction. No desire without restraint.” Whether you think it’s empty-headed pseudo-philosophy or genuine Deep Thoughts, it’s still quite amusing to watch, and even more impressive that Chow was able to pull off the choreography while delivering complicated dialogue in a language he barely understood; supposedly native Mandarin Chinese speakers laugh their butts off at how silly Chow and Yeoh (who could only speak the Cantonese dialect before) sound in this movie. Once again, being an ignorant foreign devil helps me enjoy something more. U-S-A! U-S-A!
Anyway, he’s trying to teach her humility but all she gets is frustrated. Even after the impromptu training session ends (with the girl being disarmed), she’s not having any of this, and takes off.
As fights go, it’s fairly brief, somewhat inconsequential, and one combatant isn’t trying to “win” so much as he’s trying to get the other person’s attention. Still, it’s long & complex enough that it was worthy of inclusion and some manner of discussion.
Light as it is, it works all right, even if it’s not particularly outstanding. It accomplishes everything it needs to. And, even though it comes not too long after the previous setpiece, it’s a welcome snack because there’s soon going to be a loooooong stretch of this movie without any real fight scenes to speak of. It’s not going to be boring for the next 30 minutes or so, by any means; intrigue and excitement (both of the physical and of the, ahem, “romantic” kind) aplenty await, but it is a while before the movie returns to the chop-socky portion of its plot.
Coming Attractions: Jen runs away from home and manages to immediately find herself in a bar full of kung fu jerks. She’s… not that smart.