"The Price of Feelings"
About Hou Hsiao-hsien's film
by Charles Tesson
Book included in the Prestige Limited Edition
The Flowers of Shanghai by Hou Hsiao-hsien, presented in official competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 1998, plunges us into the heart of luxurious brothels at the end of the 19th century, where courtesans, nicknamed "the Flowers of Shanghai", lived. who seem to reign like princesses in places frequented by men of high society. Around four courtesans, Ruby (Michiko Hada), Pearl (Carinau Lau), Emerald (Michelle Reis) and Jasmin (Vicky Wei), the round of men unfolds. Beneath the apparent richness of these living conditions, magnified by the beauty of the women, the film, by observing their daily lives, with the clients and with the other women working under the same roof (the landlady, the servants, the other courtesans), meticulously describes the functioning of this singular universe, with its rules, its laws, its hierarchy. Love is framed, negotiated, contracted. Is this world the appropriate theater to satisfy a real passion? A question that crosses Wang (Tony Chiu Wai Leung), without him being able to provide an answer.
Driven by a staging of sublime elegance, The Flowers of Shanghai , the unequaled peak of Hou Hsiao-hsien's work, is a unique cinematic experience, whose bewitching charm bewitches you, while opening your eyes between the pleasure principle (unconditional love) and the reality principle (the conditions of love).
Charles Tesson began as a critic for Cahiers du Cinéma in 1979 and was its editor-in-chief from 1998 to 2003. He teaches, as a lecturer, the history and aesthetics of cinema at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University. . He has been the general delegate of the Semaine de la Critique since 2011 and has chaired Aide aux Cinémas du Monde since 2016. He is the co-editor-in-chief, with Olivier Assayas, of the special issue of Cahiers du Cinéma, "Made in Hong Kong". (1984) and co-edited Asia in Hollywood (2001). He is the author of several books on cinema: Satyajit Ray (1992), Luis Buñuel (1995), El (1996), Photogénie de la Série B (1997), Theater and Cinema (2007), Akira Kurosawa (2008) .