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Flowers of Shanghai (1998)Flowers of Shanghai (1998)

Flowers of Shanghai (1998)

A hypnotic series of conversations set in sumptuous 19th-century China

Drama

7.3

movie

Japan, Taiwan

Cantonese, Mandarin

Slice-of-Life, Slow, Without plot

1998

Hou Hsiao-hsien

Annie Shizuka Inoh, Carina Lau, Jack Kao

113 min

Synopsis

Women struggle in a Shanghai brothel where everything only appears to be beautiful.

Our Take

7.3
The Staff

Written like a stage play, directed like the viewer is a fly on the wall, and shot with a love for deep shadows and warm candlelight, Flowers of Shanghai is about as immersive a chamber drama as one could ask for. Having most of the “action” take place off screen, director Hou Hsiao-hsien draws our eye instead to how his characters (including one played by an exceptionally stoic Tony Leung) continue to negotiate for their own freedom against patriarchal norms, pushing against cultural notions of proper decorum. It’s a film brimming with repressed emotion, but without ever raising its voice. The vibes, as the kids say, are immaculate.

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