[TONIGHT AT THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART] THE ASSASSIN (2015)

 

 

Assassin (2015)

 

People who write about movies probably have a different experience with movie-going than people who are unencumbered by that responsibility (more like: compulsion). Movies are generally meant to be experienced as they happen, but those of us who write about them, whether by choice or by vocation, are doing a lot of thinking as they watch. Writing about movies means you can’t be a spectator. A movie can’t wash over us like a wave; no, we keep taking our surfboard and running into the surf. In a way, someone who writes about a movie is imposing their will over it — me telling you what I think about a movie usually means I assume whatever I have to say about a movie is as interesting as the movie itself, if I’m taking up your valuable time with my words and thoughts. And as a result of this process, such a critical thinker is generally composing their thesis about a movie as it unfolds, thinking about what we’re going to write about the movie before it’s over.

 

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THE ASSASSIN had the stronger will. Much has been written already about the movie’s confident long takes and painterly compositions. The cumulative effect of that filmmaking approach was disarming: I put my critical faculties and instincts aside and submitted to the movie. Those who don’t love THE ASSASSIN as much were less willing to do that, I suppose. For whatever reason, I was willing to let THE ASSASSIN wash over me. It could be Shu Qi’s beautifully steadfast lead performance. It could be Mark Lee Ping-Bing’s immaculate photography. It could be Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s orchestration of the film’s many elements. It could be all three of those reasons, and more still.

 

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THE ASSASSIN has a determined stillness and an insistent patience that forced me to settle down and just watch. There isn’t much story to it, but that’s part of why I keyed into its frequency — I didn’t have to track over-heated plot developments, or opine to myself about my feelings about each character. I could just watch. Especially in this attention-flicker of a day and age, there’s a boldness to a film that holds on a shot long enough to let a slight gust of wind blow through the frame. And there’s a secret liberation in knowing I can submit to that boldness, rather than straining to make myself part of the experience.

 

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THE ASSASSIN shows at 7:30 tonight at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan as part of the series Luminosity: The Art of Cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bing

 

 

— JON ZILLA.

 

 

 

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Jon Abrams

Editor-In-Chief at Daily Grindhouse
Jon Abrams is a New York-based writer, cartoonist, and committed cinemaniac whose complete work and credits can be found at his site, Demon’s Resume. You can contact him on Twitter as @JonZilla___.
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