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Flowers of Shanghai back to product details

Brothel Politics
written by talltale January 25, 2005 - 5:16 AM PST
3 out of 4 members found this review helpful
Hsiao-Hsien Hou's FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI was somewhat more palatable for me that his other films "Goodbye South, Goodbye" and "Millennium Mambo." The setting--a Chinese brothel in Shanghai in the 1880s--is exotic and well-photographed, although the overlay of golden hues does begin to pall around the halfway mark. The performances are OK, too, as far as this director allows them to go.

There is no real "plot," just a collection characters--the courtesans, their clients and friends, and the madam--who all glide through their paces. Most possible conections go up in smoke, due to everything from greed to addiction to a kind of general dissatisfaction. At each point at which the story appears to grow more interesting, the director cuts off and switches to another set of characters.

Hou also loves to keep the camera (which, after all, is the window to the mind and soul) at a discreet distance; consequently, the viewer remains there, too--always hoping to get a bit closer to these people. It never happens. For some, this will be the ultimate in subtlety. For me, it's just laziness. Or perhaps just a difference in cultures (although there are plenty of other Asian films I've embraced). When a director receives glowing praise for his body of work, I'm usually interested in experiencing that work; regarding this filmmaker, my interest continues to wane with each of his films that I encounter.


(Average 6.83)
63 Votes
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