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海上花 (1998)
Flowers of Shanghai

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 08/12/2005
Summary: Slow and deliberate...

Flowers of Shanghai is a slow, deliberate movie about the relationships that start and fall apart within the opium dens of 1880's Shanghai. Tony Leung stars as a Master Wang, a wealthy slouch whose emotional immaturity leads to uncomfortable affairs with a few of the courtesans, namely Jasmine and Crimson. Although he is a long-time patron of Crimson, her recent affair with another man has led him to break off his relationship with her, putting her in a deep depression and forcing Wang to try and repair his bond with her at the request of the brothel. In another branch of the movie, Emerald (Michelle Reis) is a long-time flower-girl whose current patron tells her that he will buy her freedom. She struggles to break free of the brothel and the all-controlling madam.
The movie is quite beautiful, with long, single-take shots and tons of gorgeous costumes, and the acting is strong, with Tony Leung and Michelle Reis (Emerald) standing out as particularly good. Unfortunately, the film gets bogged down in the actual relationships that it tries to illustrate. Although the one featuring Wang and Emerald is the focus, there are two other relationships that are also shown. In the end, it becomes confusing as to which is being talked about and which courtesans are with whom. A good movie, but one in which the viewer should be paying great attention to the story in order to enhance the gorgeousness of the cinematography. Otherwise it is simply too confusing to enjoy.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/12/2002
Summary: Very disapointing

Although I usually enjoy a lot of the more 'art' style of Hk movies (still a rare genre in Hong Kong), like Ashes Of Time, In The Mood For Love, etc, but this one was not very good.

A lot of people don't like these kind of movies, that's usually because they do not appriciate them and can't stand anything that doesn't have a gun in it or anything. But this time, I must agree with those people for Flowers of Shanghai. A story about a brothal, and the 'singing girls' who entertain the rich in China. But is very very slow, and never picked up.

This is the first time I had seen a movie by Hou Hsiao Hsien, and after seeing this, I would think very hard before seeing another. Tony Leung doesn't speak very often and doesn't have much to do, so can't really comment on his performance. THe same could be said about Carina Lau.

The bad and hard to read subtitles do not help either if you can't speak or understand much Mandarin, which is the language of this movie, and I do not understand a word of Mandarin, unlike Cantonese, and therefore found it very hard to understand a lot of it, and would not see it again to try to understand it better.

Would I recommend anyone seeing it? Probably not, only if you appriciate these kind of movies, but even then you may struggle to enjoy it.

Rating (out of 5): 2

(This rating is based on the year & genre, so don't think it's based as a comparison on new releases etc.)