Skip to main content


Taiwan / Japan, 1998 (MIFF 1999, Regional Features)

Director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien

After a masterful series of films about the history of Taiwan, Hou Hsiao-hsien turns his gaze to a fascinating saga from Chinese history. Qing Dynasty 'Flower Houses', a polite euphemism for elegant brothels, were a meeting place for the male elite in the British conces­sion. The strict social rules in this complex subculture were apparently unchanging and completely cut off from the outside world

Set in 1884, during the final years of Imperial China, civil servant Wang is torn between two flower girls. He has been spending time with Jasmin, while his regular consort, Crimson, whose client list is thinning, fears she has been dumped. Though he never dominates the film, Wang is the hub from which the other charac­ters fan out: Pearl, repository of gossip: Emerald, who plans to buy her freedom: and the naive Golden Flower.

Hou's film is a series of conversations peppered with emotional squalls. Each scene is a complete take bookended by slow fades in and out, a method by which the director has almost eliminated editing. The camera is always on the move, sinuously gliding around dinner tables or from speaker to speaker like a curious guest.

See also...


Working as a hostess at a trendy bar, Vicky is engrossed in a narcissistic lifestyle of nightclubs and Ecstasy pills. Her romantic attention is divided between two men. Hao-hao, her neurotic and ... More »


Possessed of a unique melancholic but never indulgent or nostalgic vision, and with nine successes over the last decade, Taiwan's Hou Hsiao-Hsien is unquestionably an international great. His 1991 ... More »


During China's Cultural Revolution around 7.5 million 'intellectual youth' were 'sent down' to the countryside to learn skills of manual labour and rural life. Xiu Xiu, based on Yan Geling's novella ... More »


With his fascination for transmogrified bodies, junkyard sci-fi hallucinations, explosive violence and dynamic editing. Shinya Tsukamoto has found a cult audience at festivals worldwide since his ... More »


Bao Gun is a simple country boy whose dreams come true. He wins a contest in his small town, the prize being a deluxe apartment in a sumptuous, new Shanghai high-rise. Armed only with a single ... More »


The Personals is a cleverly constructed, ironic comedy of manners that's exceptionally accessible to western audiences without compromising its identity. A sleeper hit at Cannes 1999, the film ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director