The Assassin. Not going to pretend that I understood the plot in its finest details, but it’s pretty great. We have a heroine who’s had her life planned for her, and now she is wrestling with a choice. Love how the soundtrack often sticks to almost silence, except for a slow drum strike every few seconds. There’s one long scene that’s we watch – just barely, sometimes – through these gauzy curtains that drift back and forth as the camera pans from A to B and back. It’s one of those moments that gets me fired up about what you can do with movies with a little patience. Rare to see something so reflective yet so lively.
On Michael Mann, Terrence Malick, David Lynch, Wong Kar-wai and Hou Hsiao-hsien, etc.:
The sensualists are bored with dramatic housekeeping. They’re interested in sensations and emotions, occurrences and memories of occurrences. If their films could be said to have a literary voice, it would fall somewhere between third person and first — perhaps as close to first person as the film can get without having the camera directly represent what a character sees.
Yet at the same time sensualist directors have a respect for privacy and mystery. They are attuned to tiny fluctuations in mood (the character’s and the scene’s). But they’d rather drink lye than tell you what a character is thinking or feeling – or, God forbid, have a character tell you what he’s thinking or feeling. The point is to inspire associations, realizations, epiphanies — not in the character, although that sometimes happens, but in the moviegoer.
You can tell by watching the sensualists’ films, with their startling cuts, lyrical transitions, off-kilter compositions and judicious use of slow motion as emotional italics, that they believe we experience life not as dramatic arcs or plot points or in-the-moment revelations, but as moments that cohere and define themselves in hindsight — as markers that don’t seem like markers when they happen.
Directors of the Decade No. 9: The sensualists – Salon.com