An utterly remarkable film, by which I mean every single scene, perhaps even every single moment of Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien's work of beauty, compassion, and the strength to enact non-violence. As if she were the heroine of an anti-Kill Bill, our female protagonist, discipled as an assassin of elite enemies, spends pretty much the entire film trying not to harm anybody. As with the sage center of Zhang Yimou's 2002 Hero, she's willing to put herself on the line to embody the lesson that violence begets violence. That Hou weaves his story with threads of action, existential questioning, and perhaps the most detailed depiction ever of Chinese Tang dynasty courtly experience merely confirms his previously elected status as "one of the three directors most crucial to the future of world cinema".