Monday, November 16, 2015

2015 film The Assassin (刺客聶隱娘) in Pittsburgh, from November 27.

The 2015 film The Assassin (刺客聶隱娘) will play at the Harris Theater from November 27. The Taiwan-China-Hong Kong co-production by Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien stars Chinese actress Shu Qi; a summary, from an October A.V. Club review:
Enigmatic and often mesmerizing, super-saturated with color, drawn like a still plain ripped by brief, unexpected gusts of wind—The Assassin is one of the most flat-out beautiful movies of the last decade, and also one of the most puzzling. Returning to features after a prolonged absence, Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-Hsien has made a martial-arts period piece like none other, keeping to the classic principles and conventions of wuxia—the storied Chinese genre of wandering warriors and codes of honor—while casting them in a mysterious light. Bold takes on popular genres generally set out to de-mystify, but Hou has accomplished the opposite. Washing away centuries of film and fiction, he envisions a tale from the Tang dynasty—about a deadly martial artist who must kill the man to whom she was once betrothed—as a window into the haunted otherworld of the mythic past.

Perhaps the most confounding thing about The Assassin is how much of a straightforward wuxia movie it is, at least in retrospect. Raised since girlhood to be a remorseless killer of corrupt lords and court officials, Nie Yinniang (Hou regular Shu Qi) spares a target on account of his young son, and is punished with an assignment that’s meant to wipe away whatever speck of compassion she has left: to kill Tian Ji’an (Chang Chen), the cousin to whom she was promised in marriage as a child, and who is now the governor of Weibo. It’s a given that Yinniang—largely silent and nearly invisible, despite her stomping gait—can strike at any moment; the question that shadows every scene is why she doesn’t. She is there behind every curtain in Tian’s palace and on every rafter, listening, hanging like smoke, materializing only to disappear again—the passive hero as threat.
Showtimes have not yet been released. The Harris Theater is located at 809 Liberty Ave. in the downtown Pittsburgh Cultural District (map).