In Shanghai in the 1880s there are four elegant brothels (flower houses): each has an auntie (called madam), a courtesan in her prime, older servants, and maturing girls in training. The ... See full summary »
Intended as the concluding film in the trilogy on the modern history of Taiwan began with Beiqing Chengshi (1989), this film reveals the story through three levels: a film within a film as ... See full summary »
In the first half of this century, young Li Tienlu joines a travelling puppet theatre and subsequently makes a career as one of Taiwan's leading puppeteers. During World War II the Japanese... See full summary »
Since dropping out from the medical school, Lau Mack has been living a humble but contented life, running a small clinic in a shabby area, treating local inhabitants and poor prostitutes ... See full summary »
Tony Chiu Wai Leung,
Ching Wan Lau,
Reporter Ahn reveals corruption within the police force, so the police set out to frame him. Ahn experienced all sorts of punishment in prison. Meanwhile, on the outside, his girlfriend Jess is under the control of the cop who framed Ahn.
Hin Sing 'Billy' Tang
Tony Chiu Wai Leung,
Man Tat Ng,
The film focuses on three city folks who unknowingly share the same apartment: Mei, a real estate agent who uses it for her sexual affairs; Ah-jung, her current lover; and Hsiao-ang, who's ... See full summary »
When a young street vendor with a grim home life meets a woman on her way to Paris, they forge an instant connection. He changes all the clocks in Taipei to French time; as he watches ... See full summary »
The film is set during the mighty Tang Dynasty-period in Chinese history. Nie Yinniang returns to family after several years in exile. The mission of her order is to eliminate the tyrany of... See full summary »
In Taiwan, Xiao-kang, a young man in his early 20s, lives with his parents in near silence. He is plagued by severe neck pain. His father is bedeviled by water first leaking into his ... See full summary »
Taipei. A voice off-camera looks back ten years to 2000, when Vicky was in an on-again off-again relationship with Hao-Hao. She's young, lovely, and aimless. He's a slacker. Cigarettes and ... See full summary »
Based from true story, primarily a conflict between two youth gangs, 14-year-old young boy's girlfriend conflict with the head of the gang for unclear reason, until finally there was a painfully incident.
In Shanghai in the 1880s there are four elegant brothels (flower houses): each has an auntie (called madam), a courtesan in her prime, older servants, and maturing girls in training. The men gather around tables of food, playing drinking games. An opium pipe is at hand. The women live within dark-paneled walls. The atmosphere is stifling, as if Chekhov was in China. The melancholy Wang is Crimson's patron; will he leave her for the younger Jasmin? Emerald schemes to buy her freedom, aided by patron Luo. Pearl, an aging flower, schools the willful Jade, who thinks she has a marriage agreement with young master Zhu. Is she dreaming? Women fade, or connive, or despair. Written by
First, a disclaimer: I love so-called "art films", from Cocteau and Eisenstein to David Lynch and Krystof Kieslowski. I have a long attention span and am willing to extend considerable effort towards appreciating any work of art.
Having said that, The Flowers of Shanghai was largely a disappointment. Yes, the sets and costuming are sumptuous. True, the mood evoked by the film is seductive. And the subject matter--the relationships between courtesans and their clients--is at least provocative. But for a number of reasons, Hou fails to deliver a film that rises above those elements.
The reasons are many. First, the plot is minimal--hardly compelling--mostly relying upon the petty machinations between the courtesans and the clients who try not to become too involved with them. But such a minimal plot can only engage if we become involved in the characters, and this is very difficult to do.
That's problem number two: the characters simply aren't compelling. The men tend to be equivocal and emotionally distant. The women tend to be shallow and manipulative. Since there are essentially no close-up shots, and the physical expressions are very restrained, we have no sense of people's emotional states. There is not one character that we can really care about.
Third: the editing is leisurely. Really leisurely. Glacial. Very few directors can pull off a five minute interior shot with almost no dialogue or action; Ozu was one. But Hou--although better than many contemporary directors--isn't up to Ozu's level by a long shot. Hou's scenes, unlike Ozu's, don't so much engender our contemplation as they engender tedium. A director has to be able to recognize when a scene has come to the end of its life; this he doesn't seem to be able to do.
A note to the curious: every shot in this film is an interior shot; you never see the outdoors--not even the sky through the windows. And despite the subject matter and the warnings of adult content on the box, there are no sex scenes; there is no nudity. Structure-wise, the film depicts three activities: men playing "rock, paper, scissors" around a table, people having their little dramas in private, and people brooding.
That's basically it.
I would like to be able to say that The Flowers of Shanghai was more than just a 2-hours-plus visual curiosity, but it simply isn't. And more the shame because of its wasted potential.
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