An intoxicating, time-bending experience bathed in the golden glow of oil lamps and wreathed in an opium haze, this gorgeous period reverie by Hou Hsiao-Hsien (The Assassin) traces the romantic intrigue, jealousies, and tensions swirling around four late-nineteenth-century Shanghai “flower houses,” where the courtesans live confined to a gilded cage, ensconced in opulent splendour but forced to work to buy back their freedom.
Among the regular clients is the taciturn Master Wang (In the Mood for Love’s Tony Leung Chiuwai), whose relationship with his long time mistress (The Mystery of Rampo’s Michiko Hada) is roiled by a perceived act of betrayal. Composed in a languorous 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.
New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by director Hou Hsiao-hsien and director of photography Mark Lee Ping-bing, with 5.1 surround DTSHD Master Audio soundtrack
New introduction by critic Tony Rayns
Beautified Realism, a new documentary by Daniel Raim and Eugene Suen on the making of the film, featuring behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Lee, producer and editor Liao Ching-sung, production designer Huang Wen-ying, and sound recordist Tu Duu-chih
Excerpts from a 2015 interview with Hou, recorded for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Oral History Project
English subtitle translation by Rayns
PLUS: An essay by film scholar Jean Ma and a 2009 interview with Hou conducted by scholar Michael Berry