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 »
Doctor Mack is a wisecracking medical genius with a complicated personal life. When trouble with the medical board threatens Mack with losing his license, Mack's jealous co-worker is ... See full summary »
Tony Chiu Wai Leung,
Ching Wan Lau,
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 »
Is anyone who he says he is in this caper that moves from Hong Kong and Las Vegas to Tokyo? Ken doesn't show up in Vegas for his wedding; his disconsolate bride, Macy, heads home for Hong ... See full summary »
Tony Chiu Wai Leung,
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 »
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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,
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
This hypnotically beautiful film may recall a dream, but the material world of money and power, indentured servitude and beatings everywhere intrudes on it. We discover in the contrasting stories of Emerald, Pearl, Crimson, Jade, and Crystal, how some survive as "flower girls" and others are crushed. Far from being boring or cold, the film is compelling dramatically and emotionally. "Flowers of Shanghai" seems to contain boundless reserves of sadness and rage -- it is as if the sex and violence are not on screen because Hou cannot bear to show them. If "Flowers of Shanghai" is an opium dream, as many have said, the opium is both bringing pleasure and suppressing pain.
"Flowers of Shanghai" shows compassion for its characters, both the innocents and those who survive through cynical manipulation. The scene-length takes in medium shots work to establish respect for each person within the film, while at the same time bringing about a kind of "rectification of names," systematically exposing the hypocrisy of the brothels. It's appropriate that one of the few moments of violent action in the film occurs when Master Wang smashes the exquisite interior decoration in a room: "Flowers of Shanghai" shows the seductive beauty of the brothel then reveals it to be a cage. Everyone in the film is on multiple levels unfree: the women are financially bound to the brothels and dependent on the whims of their clients, and almost everyone is addicted to opium.
The film never leaves the brothels. This expresses how the brothels in fact own the women. However, as Stephen Teo noted in CinemaScope, there's another detail that's easy to overlook: the women's bound feet prevent them from easily walking more than a few feet.
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