Hou Hsiao-hsien Joins Martial Arts Epic Wave

by Anthony Kaufman
August 15, 2008 2:56 AM
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Everyone's got one: Wong Kar-wai, Ang Lee, Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, and now Hou Hsiao-hsien? After breaking his personal box office record with the French-language "Flight of the Red Balloon," Hou seems to be expanding his artfully composed long-take horizons, according to Variety, with his first big-budget martial arts epic, titled "The Assassin" (aka "The Hidden Heroine"). Backed by the Taiwan government, the film is reported to have a budget of $8.65 million. Pre-production is set for Oct. 1, with an early 2009 start-date, depending on cast and crew availability. Expected actors include Hou's "Three Times" co-stars Shu Qi ("The Transporter") and Chang Chen ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon").

According to Variety, the story is based on an 8th century legend about a girl who was kidnapped by nuns and later in life used illusion and martial arts skills to challenge the male world. "Crouching Tiger" comparisons may be inevitable, but there's few filmmakers as distinctive and glacial as Hou. Don't expect the quick cuts of early wuxia flicks; you have to wonder: What does an action sequence directed by Hou look like?

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