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.