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You might know it by a different name – a kung fu or martial arts movie, a Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee flick – but the form has been a cinema and TV staple since the final quarter of last century.The film premiered at Cannes about a year ago, where it won Hou the prize for best director (it also won the best soundtrack award).As the film begins in earnest, Nie is in the midst of such a mission when – suffering a moment of Jason Bourne-like conscience – finds herself unable to finish.A helpful frame or two of Tang-era background is provided at the start of the film via inter-titles, but the sweeping historical narrative that situates Nie's struggle is – like the details of the ninth-century all-girl NSA outfit that defends the state – alluded to only lightly.The coolly beautiful figure of Shu Qi moves from frame to frame, betraying little trace of the internal emotional conflict she's meant to be undergoing.
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