Flowers of Shanghai

Hsiao-hsien HouTaiwan – 1998

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.

Original Title Flowers of Shanghai
German Title Die Blumen von Schanghai
French Title Les Fleurs de Shanghai
Other Titles Hai shang hua
Directed by Hsiao-hsien Hou
Country Taiwan
Available Formats
Screenplay Bangqing Han, Eileen Chang, T'ien-wen Chu
Film Editing Ching-Sung Liao
Soundtrack Yoshihiro Hanno, Duu-Chih Tu
Cinematography Ping Bin Lee
Sound Yu Teng Hsu
Décors Wen-Ying Huang, Wen-Ying Huang, Chih-Wei Tsao
Costumes Suan-Fong Chang, Wei-zen Lee, Kuan-Yi Wang
Production 3H Productions, Shochiku
Runtime 113 Min.
Language 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

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

«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


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