The latest trailer for filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien‘s (Flight of the Red Balloon) The Assassin has surfaced, promising what seems to be a slow burning but beautiful take on Wuxia. The film premiered at Cannes earlier this year, and found itself contending for the Palme d’Or. It ultimately lost to Jacques Audiard‘s (A Prophet) Dheepan, but Hsiao-hsien was still able to win the Best Director award at the festival.
For those unfamiliar, Wuxia is a style of Chinese fiction involving martial arts in ancient China. This will be the first time Hsiao-hsien has worked in the genre, but the film still seems to have some of the director’s trademarks, including his penchant for striking imagery, quietly unfolding plot lines, and reserved pacing.
Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin has gotten nearly unanimous critical praise, just like the films of some other famous first-time Wuxia directors. The genre caught the attention of American cinemagoers after 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Crouching Tiger also marked a directorial first for Ang Lee (Life of Pi), who himself had yet to make a Wuxia film up until then. Similarly, director Zhang Yimou (The Flowers of War) marked his Wuxia debut with 2002’s Hero and followed it two years later with House of Flying Daggers.
Taking place during the Tang Dynasty, The Assassin stars Shu Qi (The Transporter) as a formerly exiled assassin returning home to execute a band of governors who stand against the authority of the Emperor, one of which was her former lover. The film currently has no U.S. release date, but is being released in China on August 27th, so perhaps a domestic release date is forthcoming.