Good luck figuring out what’s going on in this beguiling, ambitious martial-arts period piece. Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s first movie in seven years earned him a best director award at Cannes, and it’s visually breathtaking. Nie Yinniang (Hou regular Shu Qi) is an assassin in 9th-century China, ruthless and efficient at taking down corrupt government officials but drawing the line when children are around. After she fails to take out a target for that reason, her master orders her back to her homeland to kill Lord Tian Ji’an, a military commander and her cousin. As the forces ranged against him mount, things get confusing. But the film is so impeccably made you can just get lost in the splendor. Hou is not an action filmmaker; he is interested in mood and emotion. He’s made a majestic wuxia costume drama that feels subdued and intimate.
Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Writer: T'ien-wen Chu
Producer: Wen-Ying Huang
Cast: Qi Shu, Chen Chang, Yun Zhou, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Ching-Tian Juan, Hsin-Ying Hsieh and Fang-Yi Sheu
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