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Hou Hsiao-hsien’s ‘The Assassin’ To Strike China Screens

Having won the best director prize in Cannes, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s art-house martial arts film “The Assassin” is set to receive a theatrical release in China on Aug. 27.

Rights to the film are owned by major backer SIL-Metropole Organisation, a Hong Kong-based film production arm of the mainland government. Distribution will be handled by Huace Film & TV.

The release is co-ordinated with the film’s outing in Hong Kong the same day, and in Hou’s native Taiwan on Aug 28. Leading up to the release in Taiwan, the Spot Cinema will play a season of 14 Hou films. And in Hong Kong, “Assassin” plays as part of the Summer International Film Festival on Aug 11 and 12.

The movie is slow-moving and highly-crafted, having been made over a period of seven years, using painstaking location work in place of digital effects. It stars Shu Qi, the Taiwanese actress who is a major star across Greater China, thanks to hits including “If You Are The One,” and “Stephen Chow’s “Journey To The West.”

Yet Hou has admitted that the film may struggle to make money. That reflects its $14 million budget, its obscure dialog and its minimal, but contorted plot.

(Wong Kar-wai’s arty take on the martial arts genre, “The Grandmaster,” which was also backed by SIL-Metropole, earned $45.3 million in China in March 2013.)

Its China release also comes after the ending of the ‘domestic film promotion period’ or ‘summer blackout period when Hollywood blockbusters are not allowed to release. “Assassin” releases only four days after “Terminator: Genisys” (Aug. 23).

The Assassin” will be released in North America through WellGo USA. The film is sold by French sales agency Wild Bunch.

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