Maggie Scratch in Barcelona Tonight with The Assassin


The minute we walked into the Renoir Floridablanca  we smelled popcorn. I couldn’t resist telling Caspar my popcorn story. I’ll never eat popcorn again after the popcorn abscess I had once when one of those tiny little husks got stuck under my gums. It was Caspar’s idea to see this film, The Assassin, directed by the Taiwanese Hou Hsiao-Hsien, who won the Cannes film Festival award for Best Director. I watched the trailer. Very flashy. Casp says trailers have nothing to do with the filmmaker. They are made by other companies just doing their job. What I mean is that, based on the trailer I thought The Assassin would be a kind of female-Bruce Leeish-epic-period-type film. It was 105 minutes. At the most, only one minute of this film could be considered Bruce Leeish. Divide the other 104 minutes in two equal parts. That’s 52 minutes each of  soundtrack and photography. I have never heard such exquisite bird sounds in my life. I could see the film again just to listen to those birds. The drumming is hammered into my bones. Was that bagpipes at the end? Sounds of Zen? Sitar? Ancient gongs and strings. Epic silences. Long shots measuring humans against nature. The whites of snows, bare winter trees, dark branches in the snowy white night. Smoke curling in the hills. Long endless breathless stills of forests and stones and water and earth. When the film was over I had the energy of the Assassin’s sword flailing in my gut. The two parts we divided earlier? Sound and image? That was the film. An empty sandwich. Thin slice of a story that didn’t matter. I didn’t really care about the characters. Half the time I didn’t even know what they wanted or who they were. They were warring, elegant bastards and a few gorgeous women who stood by their men. Only the Assassin was real. Only the Assassin convinced me there was anything at all of a story inside that sandwich. The funny thing is, I ate the sandwich anyway. I chewed on the photos, (I loved the shots of the goats chewing their cuds). I had plenty of time to let my eyes wander, the camera let me relax. They mysterious music is perfume for the magical far away dangerous woods, the waterfalls, the wheatfields,  tall grasses and ridged, ringed, ragged, jagged, fairytale mountains. Welcome to paradise in the 8th century Chinese Tang Dynasty with the wild geese calling. Wild geese calling. Wild geese. A delicious, different, addicting empty sandwich.


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