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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Assassin aka "Nie yin niang" [Blu-ray], 2015)


Coming to the UK Blu-ray from, Studio Canal in May 2016:


Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Universal

Video: Well Go USA



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:45:28.416

Disc Size: 22,646,761,073 bytes

Feature Size: 18,993,297,408 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.79 Mbps

Chapters: 11

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: January 26th, 2016



Aspect ratio: 1:40 (with one early scene 1.85:1)

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio Mandarin 2474 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2474 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio Mandarin 384 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 384 kbps



English, French, Chinese (simplified and traditional), none



• Behind the Scenes (Nie yin niang - 3:11, The Actors - No Rehearsals - 3:45, The Fight Between Masters - 2:55, A Time Machine to the Tang Dynasty - 3:01)
Trailer (2:37)





Description: Celebrated Taiwanese Master Director Hou Hsiao-hsien's long-awaited return to the screen tells the story of Yie Ninniang (Shu Qi), a General's daughter, kidnapped as a child and trained by a nun in the deadly arts- only to be sent home on a bloody mission of revenge, with her betrothed (Chang Chen) as the target!



The Film:

Hou Hsiao-hsien, winner of the Best Director award at this year's Cannes Film Festival, transcends the wuxia genre and transports us into a land once upon a time that is charged with stillness and light and populated by women who take action, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, because it is. Shu Qi's movements are fantastic, her leaps nimble like a cat's, her landings on the ground without a sound.

The power of telling a tale should not be underestimated. The story of the King's bluebird takes a prominent spot as the film's format literally widens. The bluebird doesn't sing for three years, the story goes, and it is suggested to the king to place the bird in front of a mirror so that it has company. The bluebird sees itself, dances and, out of sadness, expires. It is for us to come up with the images for the tale. A metal mirror, polished and shown to village children in a much later scene is the only visual reference. Our imagination is triggered to do some work.

Excerpt from Eye For Film located HERE

For its sheer beauty, its mesmeric compositional sense and pure balletic poise, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s distinctive and slow-moving wuxia tale The Assassin demands attention. Although at the risk of philistinism, I now confess that for me its sometimes opaque and difficult plot means that my engagement with it can never be as absolute as it’s been for others here at Cannes, who have not hesitated to acclaim The Assassin as a masterpiece and a Palme contender. I’m not sure that I can go that far. The final spark of passion I was looking for was more a delicate firefly which floated entrancingly but elusively ahead.

Excerpt from The Guardian located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Hou's The Assassin is a gorgeous film, and is being released in the North American market on Blu-ray by Well Go USA.  The film was shot in-and-around the 1.4:1 aspect ratio (with one early scene, a flashback, in 1.85:!). The pre-title sequence is in black and white. This BD is single-layered with a modest bitrate but the film's colors and texture seem adeptly supported. I'm sure thee are other, Asian, 1080P releases and we may compare one day as the film is such an impressive visual treat. It may be marginally think if projected to a large screen and detail might heighten if it was more robustly transferred - I don't know. It is impeccably clean, tight, colors are vibrant but not over exuberant and it provided me with a pleasing HD presentation.








The only 1.85:1 scene in the film
















Audio :

Well Go USA use a DTS-HD Master 5.1 in the original Mandarin at 2474 kbps (only 16-bit) with a lossy Dolby stereo option available. The effects sound quite crisp and rich - separation exists - but I can't help feeling that technically it could have been more robust. The score by Giong Lim (Hou's Goodbye, South, Goodbye, Zhangke Jia's The World and Still Life among his, impressive, credits) adds much to the film experience (dense drums) and gently augments certain elements of the story while also cascading into the few supportive aggression action scenes. It sounded great - if not demo - on my system. There are optional subtitles on the region 'A' Blu-ray disc.




Extras :

Supplements consisted of four Behind the Scenes featurettes in Mandarin with English subtitles. They run about 13-minutes in total and are titled Nie yin niang, The Actors - No Rehearsals, The Fight Between Masters and A Time Machine to the Tang Dynasty. They are quite surface but its nice to get even a glimmer of input from the director and star. There is also a trailer.



The Assassin is not traditionally wuxia-genre effort with few fight sequences and it has the Hou style of deliberate pacing and contemplative pans. I thought it was a wonderful film and I remain huge on Qi Shu (Mellinnium Mambo). The Mark Lee Ping-bin (In the Mood For Love, Vertical ray of the Sun and Hou films like Three Times) cinematography is stunning.  The Well Go USA Blu-ray is a bit modest for such an impressive film (dual-layered and possibly a commentary would have been ideal) - it's the type of film you wish Criterion would do a package for - but This Well Go did provide me with the opportunity to see, and appreciate this masterful director's new work in 1080P. 

Gary Tooze

January 26th, 2016

Coming to the UK Blu-ray from, Studio Canal in May 2016:


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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