The Assassin

The Assassin 2015 
Visually ravishing. The first eight minutes are filmed in striking black and white (and shot on 35 mm) and the rest of the movie is in colour, but the outcome is just as striking. Such compositional elegance is something very rare. Each frame, each costume, each colour, everything is perfect to the last detail. It takes great talent to create something this beautiful. The Assassin won the Best Director award – Hou Hsiao-Hsien – at Cannes this year. And deservedly so. You don’t feel the camera moving (Mark Lee Ping Bing was the cinematographer). Not even, or especially in the martial arts fight sequences – so artistically, artfully and silently done. It’s that silence that builds tension. The female protagonist rarely uses words, too. Shu Qui is riveting in her role as Nie Yinniang, who was kidnapped when she was only ten by Jiaxin (Sheu Fang-hi), a nun who trained her to become an assassin, “matchless in her skill”, whose targets were corrupt government officials in ninth-century China during a time of unrest. A film that moves you as pure cinema making, where actions and body language speak more than words. But I found it amazing how words kept your interest up as well when the characters recounted their stories directly, which made the narrative flow even more seamlessly.

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