Flowers of Shanghai

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An intoxicating, time-bending experience bathed in the golden glow of oil lamps and wreathed in an opium haze, this gorgeous period reverie by Hou Hsiao-hsien traces the romantic intrigue, jealousies, and tensions swirling around four late-nineteenth-century Shanghai “flower houses,” where courtesans live confined to a gilded cage, ensconced in opulent splendor but forced to work to buy back their freedom. Among the regular clients is the taciturn Master Wang (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), whose relationship with his longtime mistress (Michiko Hada) is roiled by a perceived act of betrayal. Composed in a languorous procession of entrancing long takes, Flowers of Shanghai evokes a vanished world of decadence and cruelty, an insular universe where much of the dramatic action remains tantalizingly offscreen—even as its emotional fallout registers with quiet devastation.

Festivals & awards

Asia-Pacific Film Festival
Best Art Direction
Best Director
Cahiers du Cinéma
Best Film 1998
Cannes Film Festival
Golden Horse Film Festival
Jury Award
Best Art Direction
Kerala International Film Festival
Golden Crow Pheasant



Original Title
Flowers of Shanghai
Flowers of Shanghai
Directed by
Hsiao-hsien Hou
Bangqing Han, Eileen Chang, T'ien-wen Chu
Film Editing
Ching-Sung Liao
Yoshihiro Hanno, Duu-Chih Tu
Ping Bin Lee
Yu Teng Hsu
Suan-Fong Chang, Wei-zen Lee, Kuan-Yi Wang
Production Design
Wen-Ying Huang, Wen-Ying Huang, Chih-Wei Tsao
3H Productions, Shochiku
113 min.
Shanghainese dialect & kantonese
Tony Chiu-Wai Leung (Wang Lingsheng), Michiko Hada (Crimson), Michelle Reis (Emerald), Carina Lau (Pearl), Jack Kao (Luo), Rebecca Pan (Huang), Vicky Wei (Jasmin), Hsuan Fang (Jade), Annie Shizuka Inoh (Golden Flower), Ming Hsu (Tao)

Pro Material

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Press voices

«A distillation of the lost world.» Timeout

«Hou Hsiao-hsien ist eine singuläre Erscheinung im Kino der späten Moderne: ein Meister des elliptischen Erzählens, der Stille und Konzentration, dabei aber auch ein Nationalpoet und Chronist, in dessen Schaffen es oft um die blinden Flecken in der offiziellen Geschichtsschreibung seiner Heimat Taiwan geht.» Filmmuseum Wien

«Hou Hsiao-hsien faisait à coups de longs plans-séquences et de bouffées d’opium un nouvel accroc dans le tissu du temps, s’enfonçant dans la Chine de la fin du XIXe siècle jusqu’à l’univers clos, reclus, de ces maisons où des hommes, se faisant concurrence dans la sphère intime des sentiments, échappaient à leur mariage de convention, pour toucher au cœur les plus belles femmes de Shanghai.» JB, Festival des trois continents

«Hou Hsiao-Hsien's "Flowers of Shanghai" is an opium dream of a movie: visually and aurally there is no mistaking that this is the work of an artist with the imagination of a poet, and the precision of a clockmaker.» Moviedatabase

«After his masterful series of films about the history of Taiwan, in Flowers of Shanghai Hou Hsiao-hsien turns his gaze to a fascinating saga from Chinese history.» Festival Rotterdam