Virtual Screening Room: Flowers of Shanghai



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1998 • dir Hou Hsiao-Hsien w/Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Michiko Hada, Michelle Reis, Carina Lau • 113 min

An intoxicating, time-bending experience bathed in the golden glow of oil lamps and wreathed in an opium haze, Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s gorgeous period reverie traces the romantic intrigue, jealousies, and tensions swirling around a late 19th century Shanghai brothel, where the courtesans live confined to a gilded cage, ensconced in opulent splendor yet forced to work to buy back their freedom. Among the regular clients is the taciturn Master Wang (Leung), whose relationship with his longtime mistress (Hada) is roiled by a perceived act of betrayal. Composed in a procession of entrancing long takes, FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI evokes a vanished world of decadence and cruelty, an insular universe where much of the dramatic action remains tantalizingly offscreen – even as its emotional fallout registers with quiet devastation. – Janus Films

The Brattle was the home to the Boston theatrical premiere of this stunningly gorgeous film back in 2000 and we are thrilled to offer online screenings of the new 4K restoration scanned from the original 35mm negative.

Restored in 4K from the 35mm original negative in 2019 by Shochiku in collaboration with Shanghai International Film Festival with funding provided by Jaeger-LeCoultreat L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory.

“One of the cinematic highpoints of the 90’s, a tribute from one fin-de-siecle to another, by a master who keeps growing… This gorgeous, remorselessly controlled film is shot entirely in interiors: a succession of dimly gaslit parlors where background colors are muted – plums and golds that open to reveal the players half-concealed in the shadows – and where no one is ever left alone for long, though their inner isolation remains untouched. Elaborate rituals of opium pipes, feasts and gambling underpin the carnal intimacies and duplicities.”
– Phillip Lopate, The New York Times

“…[an] emotionally shattering masterpiece… FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI is one of the most sublimely beautiful films I’ve ever seen, and one of the most unbearably sad. To watch these characters break one another’s hearts, and then to have your own broken, is to experience something that the movies rarely grant us–perfection.”
– Manohla Dargis, LA Weekly