Oscars: Taiwan Selects 'The Assassin' for Foreign-Language Category

'The Assassin'

After several fallow years for Asian cinema in Cannes, 2015 could mark the return of far east auteurs to the festival. The Assassin, the first feature in eight years from Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien, who won Cannes' grand jury prize in 1993 for The Puppetmaster, is a prime candidate to lead Cannes' Asian revival. The new film stars Qi Shu as a female assassin during the Tang dynasty.

Hou Hsiao-hsien’s period epic has dazzled critics with its accomplished visual style and won the best director prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Taiwan has selected Hou Hsiao-hsien’s acclaimed martial arts drama The Assassin as its official entry to the 2016 foreign-language Oscar race.

The Assassin premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May, where it earned Hou the best director prize. Its nomination by Taiwan to the Oscars was widely considered a lock.

A critic's favorite thanks to its achingly refined visual style, the film is set in 9th century China, and follows a young woman who was abducted as a child, raised by nuns and trained to be an assassin. After 13 years of exile she returns to the land of her birth — with orders to kill the man she was promised to marry. Actress Shu Qi stars.

The Assassin was selected because the film’s technical aspect has reached a pinnacle,” Taiwan's Ministry of Culture said in a statement. “The film conveys a classical atmosphere and humanity through its cinematography, lighting, art direction and character modeling. Director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s film techniques have remained the same, but the film shows Hou’s strong ambition to create a new film language and style.”

Hou has represented Taiwan twice before at the Oscars, with City of Sadness (1989) and Flowers of Shanghai (1998). The only Taiwanese film ever to win the Academy Award is Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).

The Assassin will next screen at the Toronto and New York film festivals. Well Go USA will give the film a theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles on Oct. 16.