Flowers of Shanghai (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1998)

flowers-of-shanghai-1With Flowers of Shanghai, the Seattle Hou Retrospective takes a big leap forward in time and makes a somewhat less drastic transformation in filmmaking style. When we left off, Hou had moved from his series of coming of age memoirs into an epic trilogy encapsulating much of the history of Taiwan in the 20th Century. I’ll be writing about those history films in a few days, after I see Good Men, Good Women on Friday (I missed the show on Sunday), and then as A City of Sadness and The Puppetmaster play at Scarecrow at the end of the month. Hou followed up that trilogy with 1996’s Goodbye South, Goodbye, a languid film about scheming low-level gangsters trying to make a buck in contemporary Taiwan, it’s the closest Hou has ever come to making a Hong Kong-style triad movie. That one will be playing at Scarecrow Video on April 6th. Less concerned with history or memory than any film Hou had made since 1983 (excepting Daughter of the Nile), it represented a sharp turn into the next great series of films Hou would make, about young people in 21st Century urban centers, films inflected with a very peculiar kind of cinephilia. But before that train really got rolling, Hou would take a brief sidetrack into the 19th Century.

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