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Flowers of Shanghai

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Original title
Hai shang hua
Running time
130 min.
Taiwan Taiwan
Eileen Chang, Tien-Een Chu (Novel: Bangqing Han)
Yoshihiro Hanno, Du-Che Tu
Ping Bing Lee
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Co-production Taiwan-Japan; Shozo Ichiyama / 3H Productions / Shochiku Company
Drama | 19th Century. Prostitution
Synopsis / Plot
Based on an 1894 novel by Han Ziyun, FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI explores the lavish, elegant, and decadent world of late 19th century Shanghai brothels. Master Wang (played by Hong Kong film star Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) and his friends are wealthy, privileged officials who spend all of their leisure time playing drinking games, eating rich foods, gambling, and smoking pipes full of opium, when visiting their favorite "flower girls." While the men are entertained and indulged in all forms of consumerism, the women tend to the hard business of sexual commerce: paying their bills, keeping close watch over their callers, and trying to save enough to buy their freedom. The "flower girls" are played by some of the most beautiful and respected Asian actresses: Michiko Hada, Michelle Reis, Carina Lau, and Vicky Wei, who turn in strong, nuanced performances. The first Hou Hsiao-Hsien film shot entirely within a studio, its restricted, enclosed sets evoke a sense of static rigidity. Hou perfectly captures the claustrophobic, innervated world of the brothels with fixed camera shots, long takes, and formal blackouts, creating a carefully drawn study of a dying place and time.
1998: Cannes Film Festival: Nominated for Palme d'Or (Best Film)
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