Transcending the Chains of Illusion—The Assassin: Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s World of Tang China, Edited by Peng Hsiao-yen

Book Review Essay by Tony Williams
Film International
Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

If Hong Kong University Press’s Screening Communities supplies important archive information necessary to understanding much better the complexities of its subject matter, so too does this exemplary collection of essays by Chinese and Western scholars edited by Peng Hsiao-yen from the same press (2019). In addition to a list of illustrations, character chart (necessary in negotiating and understanding the many and varied complex relationships existing between characters in this film), historical chronicle of major events before the narrative begins, map of the situation affecting the Tang Dynasty (618–907) following the 763 An Lushan Rebellion, four sections comprising twelve meticulously researched and written articles follow the editor’s introduction, these key sections include two essays on the complex notion of the auteur issue affecting the director; another two on aspects of literary and film adaptation in addition to editing, four on the highly important and innovative employment of acoustic and visual conceptions, and an interrogation of how Hou employs traditional understandings of martial arts, aesthetics, ethics, and religious elements in the film within his own unique forms of interpretation. The book concludes with original source material concerning the heroine, filmography, and works cited. . . .

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Book details: The Assassin: Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s World of Tang China