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still from Flowers of Shanghai

Flowers of Shanghai

Hou Hsiao-hsien / JP, TW, 1998 / 113 min.

Hou focuses on the emotional life of five prostitutes at a time when Shanghai was still a British concession. A stylish study of a professional group, starring Tony Leung as a brothel-frequenting civil servant.

Poster Flowers of Shanghai

Tony Leung and other stars of Asian cinema play the lead roles in this historical drama about British-run brothels in late 19th-century Shanghai. Civil servant and frequent visitor Wang (Tony Leung) observes the social realities of life in these secluded houses. The prostitutes find protectors here, marriages are made, business deals are concluded and there is plenty of opium to go round.

Flowers of Shanghai is a visually overwhelming study of a professional group at the time of the Qíng dynasty. The filmmaker subtly expresses the emotions of the prostitutes without using too many words, emphasizing their isolation with precise mise-en-scène. The camera slowly moves from one end of the room to the other and back again.

Stunning period piece

Immediately after its world premiere, Eye intended to distribute Flowers of Shanghai through its then distribution division NFM/IAF. The film’s release fell through because of legal issues, and it was only screened once at the 1999 International Film Festival Rotterdam. More than twenty years later, the film is now digitally restored, enabling Eye to close a distribution deal. A stunning period piece with sumptuous costumes, magnificent masks and splendid sets, Flowers of Shanghai is a true Previously Unreleased film.

This is part of

Details

Director

Hou Hsiao-hsien

Production year

1998

Country

JP, TW

Original title

Haishang hua

Length

113 min.

Language

YUE

Subtitles

ENG, NLD

Format

DCP

Part of

Previously Unreleased

The films featured in Eye’s Previously Unreleased programme were screened at major national and international festivals, but were never released to Dutch cinemas. Frome 17 June Eye brings a choice of films previously selected for international festivals to Dutch film audiences to redress the balance.

Learn more
campaign image Previously Unreleased

Why in Eye

Flowers of Shanghai was only screened twice in the Netherlands: as a one-off at the IFFR in 1999 and in 2016, as part of Eye’s Hou Hsiao-hsien programme. The film, which was selected to compete at Cannes at the time, can now be seen in its fully restored glory.

still Flowers of Shanghai
still Flowers of Shanghai