Hou Hsiao-hsien

Flowers of Shanghai

Flowers of Shanghai

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.

Film Info

  • Taiwan
  • 1998
  • 113 minutes
  • Color
  • 1.85:1
  • Shanghainese, Cantonese
  • Spine #1077

Special Features

  • New 4K digital restoration, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New introduction by critic Tony Rayns
  • Beautified Realism, a new documentary by Daniel Raim and Eugene Suen on the making of the film, featuring behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Mark Lee Ping-bing, producer and editor Liao Ching-sung, production designer Hwarng Wern-ying, and sound recordist Tu Duu-chih
  • Excerpts from a 2015 interview with Hou, recorded as part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Oral History Projects
  • Trailer
  • English subtitle translation by Rayns
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Jean Ma and a 2009 interview with Hou conducted by scholar Michael Berry

    New cover by Victo Ngai

Purchase Options

Released May 18, 2021

Special Features

  • New 4K digital restoration, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New introduction by critic Tony Rayns
  • Beautified Realism, a new documentary by Daniel Raim and Eugene Suen on the making of the film, featuring behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Mark Lee Ping-bing, producer and editor Liao Ching-sung, production designer Hwarng Wern-ying, and sound recordist Tu Duu-chih
  • Excerpts from a 2015 interview with Hou, recorded as part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Oral History Projects
  • Trailer
  • English subtitle translation by Rayns
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Jean Ma and a 2009 interview with Hou conducted by scholar Michael Berry

    New cover by Victo Ngai
Flowers of Shanghai
Cast
Tony Leung Chiu-wai
Master Wang
Michiko Hada
Crimson
Michelle Reis
Emerald
Carina Lau Ka Ling
Pearl
Jack Kao
Master Luo
Rebecca Pan
Huang
Vicky Wei
Jasmin
Simon Chang
Zhu Shuren
Hsuan Fang
Jade
Luo Tsai-erh
Master Hong
Annie Shizuka Inoh
Golden Flower
Hsu Ming
Master Tao
Credits
Director
Hou Hsiao-hsien
Produced by
Hou Hsiao-hsien
Shozo Ichiyama
Screenplay by
Chu Tien-wen
Based on The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai by
Han Ziyun
In a translation by
Eileen Chang
Music by
Yoshihiro Hanno
Cinematography by
Mark Lee Ping-bing
Film editing by
Liao Ching-sung
Sound by
Tu Duu-chih
Production design by
Hwarng Wern-ying

From The Current

Flowers of Shanghai: Inside the Dream
Flowers of Shanghai: Inside the Dream

Hou Hsiao-hsien captures the power dynamics of courtesan life in this intoxicating portrait of the late Qing dynasty.

By Jean Ma

Artist Victo Ngai Captures the Lush, Enigmatic Layers of Flowers of Shanghai
Artist Victo Ngai Captures the Lush, Enigmatic Layers of Flowers of Shanghai

For the cover image of our edition of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s opulent masterpiece, the award-winning illustrator combined traditional Chinese figure-drawing styles with a distinctly modern approach to color and composition.

By Eric Skillman