Film Review: Flowers of Shanghai (1998) by Hou Hsiao-Hsien

After such works as “A Metropolis of Unhappiness” Taiwanese auteur Hou Hsiao-Hsien, member of the Taiwanese New Wave, was searching for new subjects, additionally exterior his house nation. Ultimately he stumbled upon a novel by Han Ziyun, translated into Mandarin by Eileen Chang, concerning the Shanghai flower homes, their relevance to city life within the early 1900s and earlier than, in addition to their hierarchy. The work impressed “Flowers of Shanghai”, in they eyes of many cinephiles and critics his most suave function, which was nominated for Greatest Movie at Cannes Movie Competition in 1998 and received the award for greatest Artwork Path and the Jury Award at Golden Horse Movie Competition.

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The story takes place through the Eighteen Eighties, and covers many characters and their encounters in one of the prestigious “flower homes” of Shanghai”. Organized and dominated by “aunts”, these homes supply shelter for a lot of younger girls, who turn into courtesans and hopefully even wifes of one among their many male costumers, all of which members of the excessive class. Particularly when a “flower” turns into previous and has reached the tip of her bloom, these girls usually turn into quite determined to discover a husband amongst their suitors. Crimson (Michiko Hada) is one among them, and has been entertaining a relationship with taciturn businessman Wang Lingsheng (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) for fairly a while, so that everybody assumes he’ll ultimately take her as his spouse. Nevertheless, when he lastly proposes, Crimson rejects him, demanding financial securities, which he denies her. In return, he threatens to interrupt up along with her, in favor of Jasmin (Vicky Wei). Since Wang was Crimson’s solely costumer, this rejection comes with a excessive value for each of them.

Except for this story, we additionally observe the occasions within the lifetime of courtesan Jade (Hsuan Fang), who’s about to turn into the spouse of Grasp Zhu (Simon Chang). Nevertheless, his obligations in direction of his household threatens their relationship, leading to some quite dramatic occasions. In the meantime, Emerald (Michelle Reis) has an formidable plan to realize her freedom, and when Grasp Luo (Jack Kao) makes a proposal for marriage, the cost is far too small in her thoughts, and she or he insists it won’t grant her the sort of independence she wishes.

As with a lot of his different options, “Flowers of Shanghai” has been criticized for its fashion which trumps over substance. Nevertheless, nothing might be farther from the reality, as each elements praise one another, making this work one of the satisfying ones within the director’s filmography. The general construction of the function consists of many lengthy takes, most of them static or with little or no digital camera motion, displaying the assorted occasions taking place within the flower homes, the gossip among the many courtesans and their suitors, in addition to the assorted dealings about the way forward for the “flowers”. Whereas there may be an plain magnificence within the aesthetics of those units, there may be additionally one thing chilly and calculating about these locations too, that are primarily nothing greater than “golden cages”, with the fragments of leisure diverting from the very fact we’re observing a side of life outlined by bondage, hierarchy and obedience.

Alongside his colleagues from the New Wave, Hou additionally follows the rule of “present, don’t inform”. Lots of the lengthy sequences, particularly the suave opening shot displaying the lads and their courtesans participating in a sport of probability and having tea, are price analyzing, because the smallest element, gesture and facial features can provide away loads. The facade of sunshine leisure once more turns into clear, emphasizing how the dealings and conversations are pushed by energy and superiority. The varied “flowers”, multifariously portrayed by an incredible feminine forged led by Michelle Reis, Michiko Hada and Hsuan Fang, to call however a number of, highlights how these girls have discovered their methods of survival on this cruel competitors which decides about their future and, finally, their dream of an unbiased life, exterior the golden cage.

Ultimately, “Flowers of Shanghai” is a superbly shot and intricately written in addition to acted drama. Hou Hsiao-Hsien reveals his viewer a historic setting whose ideas of energy, hierarchy and competitors nonetheless appear fairly related right this moment, making this function price repeated viewings as the assorted scenes embody a large number of data and sweetness.



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