Directed by lumiere and critically acclaimed Taiwanese director, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, The Assassin is his ballad of the beauty of Asian cinema. If you're looking to watch The Assassin thinking that you'll get an action-packed film then you can stop right there. This is not an action film. It's more of a political drama. And it's certainly not everyone's cup of tea. Instead, it is more for those who want to see a film and appreciate cinema as an art form. Hsiao-Hsein makes use of cinematic beauty to tell his story which is loosely based on the 9th century story, Nie Yinniang. It's a turtle's pace story that drags its viewer on. With long cuts to wide angles to old school panning, Hsiao-Hsein channels in traditional storytelling. There is a lot of ambiance shots, little dialogues and more expression to move the story forward. As a viewer, you focus on the cinematic beauty. It's a cinematic ballad of Asian context. True enough, it might be difficult for people to follow the plot. The summary might even be misleading because I see no romance here. Instead, I see more of an exploration of one's identity but perhaps a little too less. The lack of dialogue is overshadowed by the overwhelming amount of wide setting shots that makes you, the viewer decide most of what happens. There is little close-up of characters so you are in total control when it comes to interpretation. The Assassin's strongest feat is definitely it's visual allure that explores the power of stillness (through the cinematography) and silence (through the lack of dialogue and use of music) that brings an unease tension, excitement and anticipation. It's almost as if you're watching a poetic piece, embedded in mystery all the while embodying precise movements and careful gestures that speaks to the camera. The lack of dialogues amplifies the action creating literature-like atmosphere. Shu Qi reminds me of Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, her movements are so graceful and full of clarity. Her stone-cold face and unstained expressions just captures the assassin role so well. Hsiao-Hsien won Best Director in Cannes for this film and also swept 8/9 awards in the Asian Film Awards among others. In the end, it's really the ice-pole pace and the uninteresting characters that'll make you keep it at arm's length.
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