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Wuxia Meets Art House Cinema in ‘The Assassin’

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Images courtesy of TIFF Film Reference Library

Many of the press materials surrounding The Assassin, art house master Hou Hsiao-hsien’s new wuxia film, point out that the project was years in the making. This is an understatement.

The first feature-length film the director has shot since 2008’s critically acclaimed Flight of the Red Balloon suffered a number of setbacks during shooting (production actually stopped at two separate times), but Hou’s efforts to bring this vision to the screen started a good quarter of a century earlier. Discussion about The Assassin first appeared in the English press materials for the auteur’s breakthrough film A City of Sadness back in 1989, when screenwriter and longtime Hou collaborator Chu Tien-wen mentioned that she was working on a script for it. And the original inspiration for the film dates back even further than that, to the now 68-year-old director’s high school and college years, when he first became familiar with the chuanqi (short stories) from the Tang Dynasty. One of those chuanqi, Nie Yinniang, plays a substantial role in what eventually became The Assassin. “You could say that I took the basic dramatic idea from it,” Hou says in the film’s press kit from ….View original article