I pride myself on being able to make more sense of movies and catch more details than most other people. As we all know from stories and movies, the prideful are eventually brought low. In this case, by a movie with an utterly glacial pace that shows an unresolved martial arts fight (it seems that both fighters walked away, but there's no explanation of why it happened) followed by a shot of goats in a pen chewing their cuds. The only conclusion is that the director is more concerned with "pretty" than with resolution. I was roped into this movie because it's got an 81% rating and is "Certified Fresh" over at Rotten Tomatoes: I'm really going to have to rethink my decision methodology.
The basic premise sees a young woman (Nie Yinniang, played by Shu Qi) who was sent away to train with a nun ... who teaches her to be an assassin ... coming home with the assignment of killing her cousin (Chang Chen) who is now a provincial official and who also used to be her fiancée. There's other political intrigue at work, and some nasty family politics as her ex-fiancée is having an affair with a dancer (or is she officially his concubine? ... but his wife doesn't like it).
There may be cultural clues if you're Chinese that will fill in the gaping holes left by the director's disinterest in the plot (at 1 hour 45 minutes, there's enough plot for a 30 minute short - the rest of the time is filled with scenery and very long silences between conversation).
It's pretty in places, but overall I'd rate this one "agonizing."