At the Friday press conference for the BIFF Gala Presentation “The Assassin,” Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien explained how his film is different from other martial art films made in China. “Many martial art films these days design nice-looking choreography that is more like a stage performance,” said Hou. “I tried to make it look as realistic as possible. That’s why I didn’t want to make my actors defy gravity or fly unrealistically high up in the air in ‘The Assassin.’ ”
Actor Chang Chen said that ever since his first film with Hou, “Three Times,” he has always wanted to work with the director who has his own philosophy about filmmaking. “I was too young and my acting skills weren’t very good when I was shooting ‘Three Times.’ But I learned a lot from the director and I’ve always wanted to make up for it should the opportunity arise,” said Chang.
With his 1989 work “A City of Sadness” ranked No. 5 on the BIFF’s 100 Asian Cinema list, the director said the film was a turning point of his career. “I was young and was brave enough to make such a film that directly deals with the Kuomintang government and the tragic White Terror period. My other works wouldn’t have been made if it were not for the festivals that had screened it and all the awards it had received.”
In the end Hou realized that filmmakers need to be allowed to be intellectual, not just encouraged to pursue movies that would be financially successful. “You need to show your audience what has happened and is happening in the place that they’re living, even though that might be tragic and painful,” said Hou.