Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s China-financed period epic “The Assassin” is finally ready after decades of stop-and-go development and production. His seventh Cannes Competition contender, “The Assassin” has been in the works since 2012 when the Taiwanese cinema figurehead, master of many a meditative long-take, began filming in Taiwan. A departure from his recent dramas including “La Belle Epoque,” this martial arts epic shows Hou painting on a much bigger canvas — and with a budget of around $15 million dollars.
Starring Shu Qi, Chang Chen and Satoshi Tsumabuki, “The Assassin” is set in 9th-century, Tang Dynasty China, where the 10-year-old daughter of a general is abducted by a nun who then transforms the girl into an ass-kicking, martial arts assassin tasked with wiping out corrupt governors. After failing an assignment, she is sent back to her homeland with orders to kill the cousin who now steers the largest military region in North China.
Hou, now 68, works with longtime collaborator and Wong Kar-wai cinematographer Mark Lee, and screenwriter Chu T’ien-wen. “The Assassin” will world-premiere in the Cannes Main Competition this May. (New images below via The Film Stage.)