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Flowers of Shanghai (Hai shang hua) (1998)

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No Score Yet...

Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 2
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 0

audience

81

liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 2,141

My Rating

Movie Info

Shanghai, the 1880s, four elegant brothels (flower houses): each has an auntie (the madam), a courtesan in her prime, older servants, and maturing girls in training. The men gather around tables of food, playing drinking games. An opium pipe is at hand. The women live within dark-paneled walls. The atmosphere is stifling, as if Chekov was in China. The melancholy Wang is Crimson's patron; will he leave her for the younger Jasmin? Emerald schemes to buy her freedom, aided by Luo, a patron. Pearl,

Aug 14, 2001

Wellspring Media Inc.

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All Critics (17) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (9) | Rotten (1) | DVD (4)

The film opens with a brilliant seven-minute take; the languid yet precise cinematography throughout gives it the seductive power of a drug-induced dream.

November 14, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's beautiful to look at, but you must have patience to enjoy it.

April 30, 2004 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Flowers of Shanghai is a beautiful, tantalizingly oblique, and thoroughly hypnotic film, a work so sensual that one can nearly smell the perfume wafting from the screen.

August 21, 2009 Full Review Source: City Pages, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Sympathetically depicts ... consuming, love-sick ennui.

May 3, 2005 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

Each scene of Flowers is like an exquisite and decorous mural, worth studying.

January 15, 2005
Looking Closer

It probably isn't Hou's best film, but perhaps it is his prettiest.

March 5, 2002 Full Review Source: MovieMartyr.com
MovieMartyr.com

Hou's a gifted director, as even his poorer films are quite good.

October 22, 2001 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Contains an artistry, beauty, restraint, and patience that perhaps only Stanley Kubrick, Max Ophuls, or Kenji Mizoguchi possessed.

February 7, 2001 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Audience Reviews for Flowers of Shanghai (Hai shang hua)

Multiple viewings in a theater setting MIGHT get this more stars. ... could also induce suicide.
July 12, 2009
brooklynspo

Super Reviewer

moving very slowly from one blackout scene to the next, beautifully shot in the candlelit rooms of various brothels of the 19th century, flowers of shanghai explores the intrigues of 'flower girls' or courtesans, sold as children into a life little better than slavery. there's alot of drinking, gambling and opium smoking and the film requires a good deal of patience. i probably need to watch it again as i felt as though i had smoked opium myself afterward
July 10, 2009
rubystevens
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

Hou Hsiao Hsien's play-like story of a famed brothel (Flower House) in Shanghai is a study of manners in late 19-century China. Sublimely restrained in parts, the opening sequences introducing each courtesan (flower girl) is exquisite and captivating... but I have to admit that I fell asleep in parts and it is pretty slow. The dubbing of Crimson's character also bothered me a fair bit. I loved Pearl and Emerald though, and I wish we could have seen more of Carina Lau's lovely, calm performance of the daughter of the house. Michelle Reis is great fun as the brash, arrogant, independent courtesan, so different from the other meek girls. Too many drinking game scenes! Beautiful score though, and Tony Leung is good although not spectacular. However, I did really love how Flowers... felt like a play in the theatre, from its fades in and out to its static mise-en-scene, but incorporated some great close-up shots of Crimson and Wang sitting quietly, etc. Worth another watch, but not anytime soon.
October 24, 2006
falcons84

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Flowers of Shanghai (Hai shang hua) (DE)
  • Flowers of Shanghai (Hai shang hua) (UK)
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