Directed by: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
It is true what they say, my friends, there are basically no quality movies released in January/ early February. I have searched far and wide, and had little to no luck finding any films that I deemed worthy of watching and reviewing. So, I decided to watch a flick from 2015 that I badly wanted to see, but never got around to watching. I am speaking of Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s “The Assassin”.
The story here centers on Yinniang (Qi Shu) a young woman who was taken as an infant, to be trained as an elite assassin. Years later, her training is complete. Her master’s only concern is that she has to much of a heart an dis not willing to kill those she decides do not deserve that fate. To test her one last time, her master sends her on a mission to kill a political leader who also happens to be her own cousin.
Hsiao-Hsien Hou is considered by many to be one of the finest living directors, and won best director at Cannes for this film. He certainly shows it here, in his first foray into martial arts, by creating a deeply beautiful film in every way. Every shot, every movement, every word spoken seem like brush strokes executed by a the hands of a masterful painter. For the first thirty minutes or so I was surprised by how slow the pace of the film was and how long certain shots were. That, for me, did not detract from the film though as I was constantly enthralled by the sheer majesty of the set design, costumes, and cinematography.
I will admit that at some point the story took a back seat to the imagery. This is not a martial arts film that is delivered through bloody battle scenes (although there are a few incredible ones) or a mercenary constantly spouting witty one liners. It is delivered through body language and facial gestures and through the lush landscapes that surround it. Yes, that means many American moviegoers are not going to find this “Entertaining”, but for true lovers of cinema “The Assassin” should absolutely not be missed.