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 »
Ah-Ching and his friends have just finished school in their island fishing village, and now spend most of their time drinking and fighting. Three of them decide to go to the port city of ... See full summary »
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
I saw this film at Cannes where delegates, including would-be intelligent critics emerged from the film scratching their heads and mumbling 'interesting' - a sure sign that they couldn't understand a word of it. For me it had been an epiphanous experience.
Six months later Cahiers du Cinema voted it the best film of its year...
I am sure there is a word to describe the effect of the film, but I can't lay my hand on it, so I will say 'emotionally disjoint'. As the men sit around playing Mah Jong talking, generally of trivia, huge emotional dramas are going on, but obliquely, in relation to the girls in the brothel. The effect is crushing.
I thought, while watching, mainly of Jean-Marie Straub as it has a minimalist side, but with such greater emotional power and resonance. It is so tragic that this magnificent film has had such a poor release in the west - no theatrical distribution at all in the UK...
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