Flowers of Shanghai (1998)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2005-08-12
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