Combining Hou’s patient, observant style with a historical martial arts tale, the film is a fascinating mix of craft, genre and story. Beautiful to look at and with deeply felt emotions, the film has a meditative aura punctured by sharp bouts of fighting.
“The Assassin” won the director prize for Hou when it premiered this year at the Cannes Film Festival and has been selected as Taiwan’s submission for the foreign-language film Oscar. Set in ninth century China, the film follows a young woman named Nie Yinniang (Shu Qi), who is taken from her family and trained as an assassin by a nun, Jiaxin (Sheu Fang-yi). Yinniang is sent back to her home province with an order to kill the governor, Tian Ji’an (Chang Chen), to whom she was once engaged. Within the film’s delicate emotional dynamics, a slight gesture causing a rustle of fabric can be felt as deeply as a fist or a blade. More here.