8th century China. 10-year-old general’s daughter Nie Yinniang is abducted by a nun who initiates her into the martial arts, transforming her into an exceptional assassin charged with eliminating cruel and corrupt local governors.
This film is not currently playing on MUBI but 30 other great films are. See what’s now showing
SWORD STORY, ENTER THE WOLRD OF WUXIA. Between hieratic plans & dazzling accelerations, a magnificent, fascinating & dizzying story of chivalry. The captivating magic & the bewitching mysteries of 12th century will carry you away. ==== Entre plans hiératiques & accélérations fulgurantes, une grandiose histoire de chevalerie, fascinante & étourdissante, dont la captivante magie & le mystère envoûtant vous emporteront.
A defiant and unique Wuxia film that strays very far from the typical styles and tropes used in the genre. Watching this film was like being on top of a mountain and taking in the biggest breath of fresh air and it deconstructs the Wuxia genre akin to The Killing of a Chinese Bookie did to the noir movie. I need to see more Hou Hsiao-Hsien films.
Decadent cinematography and immaculate attention to historic and symbolic detail, the nuances of which doubtless remained largely opaque to my North American perspective. A slow and subtle wuxia made and acted so skilfully that it did feel like a shame there wasn't a bit more to it's surface-story as well. Probably my unexamined Western entitlement. Still... 3.75
I confess that I was rather impressed with the premise, in the sense of an artistic, and formally interesting martial arts film. Not many directors ever attempt to make an artistic action or horror film, but sadly although the colours and scenes are exquisite, thematically it is boring as hell. If this was actually a fusion of a martial arts work with this form, I would have been in love, but there is little action.
A rapturous experience, but far from just eye candy. Hou's formal choices reinforce the film's themes of isolation (often self-imposed) and tragic, self-denying duty. Beneath the visual splendor, beneath the period production design, beneath the generic affiliation with the wuxia tradition, this is a powerful film about forgiveness, individuality and discovering your own inner peace.
Needless to say, it will never do to bring the same criteria to bear when assigning stars to different sorts of cinema. Early Hou shakes me up, its stillnesses jittering until they shatter. Subsequent films assumed an ornamental zen serenity, but retained a saving ambiguity that granted dimension to their almost-too-beautiful surfaces. Here, from beneath the audacity of his conceit, Hou emerges as a master-mortician.
This is some serious jaw on the floor shit. My God. None of Hou's subsequent movies have quite risen to the level he maintained in the 90s. The Assassin steadfastly does. This movie is so meticulously mapped out and rigged up that the only suitable way to respond is to surrender wholly to awe. This is a work of art on par w/ anything currently being done in any medium. One finds oneself absolutely immersed.
The Assassin is a contemplative gem featuring rich cinematography and an understated martial arts tale full of symbolism. Both the costume design and set design are immaculate, but I know I wasn't the only one in the theater who felt restless from the abbreviated fight scenes. Even still, Hou Hsiao-Hsien has crafted an absorbing film that showcases his attention to detail in every frame.