I was deeply affected by this movie. My first steps to Asia were taken after I enrolled in an East-Asian Studies program, focusing on the Chinese side, which led me to studying in China. Chinese cinema – especially the work of Zhang Yimou, and but even a film like Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor – contributed greatly to my infatuation and desire to study that culture, and for a long time I remained a big fan of that region’s filmmaking (China/Taiwan). It’s something that I’ve left a bit behind over the years, but the talk surrounding Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s The Assassin had me longing to see it – it also didn’t hurt that one of my favorite actresses, Shu Qi, is in it – and I was not disappointed. The Assassin is one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen, and I was just constantly wowed by the choices the director made – not showy, and even slightly off, yet always mesmerizing. It’s also another interesting take on the tradition of kung-fu cinema, coming off as more arty than something like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which although beautiful, still felt like an action film. It may not be for everyone, but I watched it in a trance-like state, and can’t recommend it enough.
I don’t watch Hong Kong films like I used to, but I’m certainly glad that I was pointed to this. Loved it. I’m also a big fan of Stephen Chow’s Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle (especially the latter), and this one is just as fun. There’s just so much joy in all the sequences, and the characters are great too. Oh, and Shu Qi, of course.