"Flowers of Shanghai"
Directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien
The elegant brothels of
19th century Shanghai provide the setting for Hou Hsiao-hsien's mesmerizing
examination of a time and place where rituals shaped the destinies of the
beautiful "flower girls" as they tried to find security with their
wealthy callers. "Elaborate rituals of opium pipes, feasts and gambling
underpin the carnal intimacies and duplicities. Hou takes the conventions of
geisha melodrama--the cruelty of sexual commerce, the women's debts, the
madam's bossiness, the self-protective, two-faced nature of a courtesan's
attachments--and strips down the genre to its essence" (Phillip Lopate,
New York Times). Mandarin with English subtitles. Taiwan. 125 minutes.