105 minutes, Taiwan-China- Hong Kong, 2015, Digital, Subtitled, Colour and Black and White

★★★★★ RTE.ie ★★★★★ The Telegraph ★★★★ The Irish Times

A revered figure in world cinema, Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien is acclaimed for his elliptical narratives and meticulously crafted aesthetic. In this, his first martial arts film, he blends his style with the genre’s intrinsic qualities, creating something that is at once familiar and distinct.

Set in eighth-century China, The Assassin is based on a wuxia story about the invincible Yinniang, played here by a compelling, chiefly silent Shu Qi, who is instructed to kill the governor of the Weibo province, a man to whom she was once engaged. Moving at a shifting pace that is impossible to second guess, the plot is often subsidiary to the film’s attention to detail and hypnotic mood, partly established by Mark Lee Ping Bin’s striking cinematography. Little surprise that this mysterious, beautiful film secured Hsiao-Hsien the award for Best Director at Cannes and was ranked as 2015’s best by Sight & Sound. (Notes by Alice Butler)

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