An artistic dialect and style unto itself, a film whose uniqueness is defined by its grand convergence of form, gesture, presentation and purpose. Not all of The Assassin is, in isolation, as bold and as fresh as the film is overall, but as a whole it is dazzlingly new and exciting, an expression of the excitement of creation and pure, profound artistry. That artistry is related through Hou Hsiao Hsien's procedures as a filmmaker and in his depiction of procedure and ceremony within his films. The Assassin is wonderfully whole, perfectly precise, a depiction of precision that is brilliant merely in being the brilliant application of the talents of brilliant artists. The self-containment of this application and the breadth of Hou's ability to control and connect the exact meaning and purpose of every element of his films are such that one feels privileged to watch them - watching The Assassin feels like watching a gift of which we are entirely unworthy. It's an immensely, unthinkably gorgeous film, not simply in its imagery alone but in the manner in which this imagery is presented; Hou and DP Lee Ping Bin turn their creations into the very text of their film, an achievement shared by all other aspects of the filmmaking here, from the sound design to the set dressing, from the editing to the sparingly-utilised dialogue. These aspects are the film's experience, and it's a wondrous experience to participate in, multi-faceted in the way that Hou subtly yet profoundly changes its direction with the use of a short speech or a brief cue of music, and intensely beautiful in just about every imaginable way.