The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 2015)

assassinI haven’t seen a Hou film before. And after seeing The Assassin, I realized that—kind of regretted it actually—watching this film 40,000 feet above the ground wasn’t the best way to appreciate Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s cinematic finery. More so with the aircraft’s engines roaring from just outside the window. Though from what I could make of it, the film is almost devoid of score; ambient sounds of wind and birds chirping and the ceremonial beating of gongs at the palace, serve as auditory backdrop. The film is ultra-slow, sprinkled with bits of ultra-violence. The brief fight scenes, which are few and far between, intercut long periods of stately, painterly, meticulously detailed, and beautifully shot frames that moves the story in glacial but assured pace. It’s not for everyone, but it’s beautiful—and that surely is, an understatement.

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