Shanghai World Expo 2010>Shanghai on Film
UPDATED: July 21, 2010 Web Exclusive
Shanghai on Film

Movie poster from Flowers of Shanghai

Flowers of Shanghai

Year: 1998

Director: Hsiao-hsien Hou

Screenwriter: T'ien-wen Chu (writer)

Eileen Chang (translation)

Han Ziyun (aka Han Bangqing) (novel)

Starring: Shuan Fang, Michiko Hada, An-an Hsu, Annie Yi, Jack Kao, Carina Lau Ka-Ling, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Firebird Liu, Vicky Wei

Production: 3H Productions, Shochiku Company

Plot Synopsis: In 1880s Shanghai, there are four elegant brothels (flower houses), each of which has an auntie (the madam), a courtesan in her prime, older servants, and maturing girls in training. Men come to these houses and gather around tables of food, playing drinking games with opium pipes in hand. The film, adapted from the novel Hai Shang Hua Lie Zhuan written by Han Ziyun in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), depicts the stifling and depraved atmosphere and the different destinies of the men and women in that time.

Behind the Scenes: Taiwan director Hsiao-hsien Hou maintains the particularity of his films – presenting the details of daily life – in this film as well. Although he cannot speak Shanghai dialect at all, he still shot this film in Shanghai dialect and presented a charming Shanghai through his lens. Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk was originally cast in the film, but she finally refused Hou's invitation due to her poor Shanghai dialect, which was important for her performance. Moreover, the famous writer A Cheng served as a consultant on the film, finding the details and properties that best represented life in that time. By the way, Hai Shang Hua Lie Zhuan is one of Eileen Chang's two favorite novels (the other is A Dream of Red Mansions), and it was she who first translated this novel into English.


1. The wonderful cooperation between the famous director Hsiao-hsien Hou and the cast, including Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Carina Lau Ka-Ling

2. Represents the cultural flavors of old Shanghai through the detailed daily life shown in the film

3. The director used single-shot resolution to present some scenes in the film, revealing his excellent professional ability

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