Flowers of Shanghai (Hai shang hua) (1998)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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, an aging flower, schools the willful Jade, who thinks she has a marriage agreement with young master Zhu. Is she dreaming? Women fade, or connive, or despair.
NR (adult situations)
Action & Adventure , Art House & International , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Wellspring Media Inc.


Tony Leung Chiu Wai
as Wang Lingsheng
Michiko Hada
as Crimson
Michelle Reis
as Emerald
Fang Hsuan
as Jade
Carina Lau
as Pearl
Wei Hsiao-hui
as Jasmin
Annie Shizuka Inoh
as Golden Flower
Jack Kao
as Luo
Hsu Ming
as Tao
Rebecca Pan
as Huang
Shuan Fang
as Jade
Lin Yu-han
as Treasure
Simon Chang
as Zhu Shuren
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Flowers of Shanghai (Hai shang hua)

All Critics (10) | Top Critics (2)

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.

Full Review… | November 14, 2013
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | April 30, 2004
Miami Herald
Top 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.

Full Review… | August 21, 2009
City Pages, Minneapolis/St. Paul

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

Full Review… | May 3, 2005
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.

Full Review… | March 5, 2002

Audience Reviews for Flowers of Shanghai (Hai shang hua)

A gorgeous-looking film with a beautiful art direction and a camera that appears to glide through the sumptuous spaces and rooms of those four brothels in 38 stunning long takes, making it feel almost like a travel in time to the atmospheric Shanghai of the end of the 19th century.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Multiple viewings in a theater setting MIGHT get this more stars. ... could also induce suicide.

Bob Stinson
Bob Stinson

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

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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