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FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI

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...

cafE Lumiere

Japan, 2004
In [Cafe Lumiere] Hou Hsiao-hsien has fashioned a superb homage to Japan's master filmmaker Ozu Yasujiro, incorporating some reverent references to his 1953 [Tokyo Story]. ... [Cafe Lumiere] is a del… More »

THREE TIMES

Taiwan, 2005
Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien is certainly one of the greatest living filmmakers - and this new masterpiece acts as undeniable proof. It tells three love stories set in different eras; The vigne… More »

TAIPEI STORY (PG)

Taiwan, 1985
“[A] quietly stunning drama which sees the various problems facing a rapidly modernised city reflected in the lives of a dozen or so subtly observed characters.” - Time OutStarring MIFF regular, … More »

THE TIME TO LIVE AND THE TIME TO DIE

Taiwan, 1985
"Hou Xiaoxian's overwhelmingly moving film is at least 70% autobiographical: these are remembered scenes from his own mischievous childhood and near-delinquent adolescence, and the fact that he speak… More »

DAUGHTER OF THE NILE

Taiwan, 1987
In the last few years Hou Hsiao-hsien's films, (A Summer at Grandpa's '84, A Time to Live and a Time to Die '85 and Dust in the Wind '87) have reflected the considerable critical attention coming to,… More »

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