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The Assassin (2015)


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#1 Kenny N Suleimanagich

Kenny N Suleimanagich
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Posted 21 October 2015 - 11:54 AM

I just saw the new Hou Hsiao-Hsien film "The Assassin" - which is having a small theatrical run here in New York following NYFF. 

 

It's a Wuxia film that takes place in 9th century China. Hou's work has had a huge impact on me - along with his collaboration with Mark Lee Ping Bin - I especially like the austerity of the frame, and how hard and soft light play with each other along with the breathtaking frames. "A City of Sadness" is among my favorites, and I got to see several of his films on 35mm at the Museum of the Moving Image retrospective, but what interested me most was seeing what a 2015 Hou film would look like. 

 

In particular, the film is one of the cleanest examples of photochemical capture I've ever seen. Many scenes were done in very low light, and in many instances I was thinking there was no way they used anything but an Alexa. In fact, the only time I ever saw grain was in two or three shots, very briefly, in cloudy skies. I didn't know it was film going into it, and kept second guessing myself when I would see incredible color and skin rendition in some scenes but bright highlights in others. 

 

The cinematography is very impressionistic - done in full aperture - and has several fleeting moments of natural beauty that are breathtaking on the big screen. Every frame (as in many HHH films) could be a painting. The interiors make a very impressive use of outdoor-motivated light and candlelight. In one sequence, in which the central antagonist realized he is a target of our protagonist, the camera work is augmented by an out-of-focus foreground which creates separation, perspective, and intimacy all in a single frame. I've never seen anything quite like it. 

 

I highly recommend "The Assassin" to all of you if you can see it. 

 

 

 


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