The Assassin, the film that made director Hou Hsiao-hsien the darling of the 68th Cannes International Film Festival, landed in Chinese theaters on August 27.
Starring Shu Qi, Chang Chen, Ethan Juan and Japanese actor Tsumabuki Satoshi, The Assassin is based on a character from the short story collection Legend.
Set in the Tang Dynasty, the film follows Nie Yinniang, the daughter of a low- ranking general who is spirited away by a Taoist nun at the age of 10 and trained to kill her cousin Tian Ji’an.
Yinniang’s mother tries to stop her mission to avoid bringing chaos to the Yuan family.
As Yinniang’s father escorts an army leader to a safe place, she secretly follows them and learns the Yuan family has attacked her father to seize control of the country.
Although The Assassin found an audience abroad, in China it fails to stand up to Hou’s former films. The script is a confusing hodgepodge that attempts to blend modern and classical Chinese ?a problem exacerbated by chaotic editing. However, the scenery is undoubtedly beautiful and does a great job of capturing the magic of the Tang Dynasty.
Most of the film’s supporters on the mainland seem more interested in the director’s story than Assassin’s.
Hou was born in Guangdong province in 1947 and moved to Taiwan with his family. His father died when Hou was 12 years old; his mother followed five years later. Their deaths sent him into a downward spiral that destroyed his grades, cost him college admission and left him with few options outside the military.
As a soldier, Hou watched the English film Crossroad and decided to dedicate his life to filmmaking.
He enrolled in film school after he finished military service but failed to find work in the industry. Hou ultimately ended up selling computers.
It wasn’t until 1973 that Hou actually did something related to film. Director Lee Hsing was looking for a screenwriter, and Hou抯 teacher recommended him.
In less than 10 years, Hou developed a style focused on long shots, and many of his films began to appear at film festivals. Among all his films, Flowers of Shanghai is the best known, starring the famous couple, Hong Kong actor Leung Chiu Wai and actress Carina Lau.
Others focused more on the personal story of actress Shu Qi.
Shu got her start as a model and adult film star. She was the first actress to win Best Supporting Actress and Best New Actress for an adult film at the Hong Kong Film Awards.
Shu eventually decided to put on the clothes that she took off when she was young, and won many fans with popular films including If You Are The One, Three Times and Gone With the Bullets.