Books and Movies Reviews

shanghai flowers

Q1. There is a clear contradiction between the beauty and elegance of Shanghai society and culture on the turn of the 19th/20th centuries and the sordid, sometimes despairing lives of the characters as they depicted in Flowers of Shanghai. Discuss the visual style of the film, and attempt to explain a rationale for this apparent contradiction, and/or point out ways in which there is, indeed an organic correspondence, e.g., through a theme of entrapment.
The impressive visual style of the Flowers of Shanghai is as elegant as the flower girls' beautiful appearance, while its atmosphere is as claustrophobic as their entrapment.
Set entirely inside the elegant flowerhouses, spectators have no choice but to follow the lives of the flower girls, who go out, if at all, only with their clients. The deprivation of lighting further intensified the sense of claustrophobia. Most of the scenes were shot during nighttimes, when a few table gaslights dimly light up the flower girls' figures and their delicately decorated rooms. There are only three noticeable daytime scenes: one is when Emerald is about to buy herself freedom; the other two scenes are about arranging marriages, which result from the two most violent scenes in the film (the outrage of Master Wang and the love suicide Jade attempted to commit), and follow by a devoice (between Wang and Jasmine) and a questionable future (of Jade's marriage).
Windows are a more decorative metaphor than the source of lighting. The cold blue and green lights can hardly penetrate the windows; instead, the lights stay on the glass and contrast with the overwhelming warm and rich red and yellow colours inside, hinting the contradiction between the glamour of the interior and the harsh reality of the outside world. Moreover, the delicate Chinaware found in every flower girl's jewellike, bewitching chamber, such as the one Jade is sitting on when she feeds Master Zhu opium, is a me…

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