Film: Flowers of Shanghai
Flowers of Shanghai
(上海花) is a Taiwanese movie directed by Hou Hsiao Hsien
(who later made Three Times
) and released in 1998. Adapted from a Chinese novel from the turn of the 20th century, it focuses on the lives of several "flowers" (i.e. high-class courtesans
) in the brothels of Shanghai
in the late 19th century.
The movie is mostly non-narrative, consisting of a series of tableaus, with most of what little action takes place remaining off-screen. Similarly, while a fair bit of talking is done, the really important things are never spoken out loud.
The male patrons come to the flower houses for a good time, which involves eating, drinking, being pampered by attentionate courtesans, and of course sex. The girls, meanwhile, vie for their attention, and either attempt to become a given client's favorite in order to be taken up as a second wife, or save money to buy up their own contract. The world they all live in is one of illusion and manipulation.
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