Set against the backdrop of 19th century Shanghai, and the settlement of the British Empire, this film tells a story of Chinese courtesans and their guests in Shanghai’s red-light districts. The original story is China’s first serial novel, , which was written by Han Bangquing and published in the novel magazine, Book of Shanghai, in 1892. Eileen Chang, author of Lee Ang’s film , translated the novel into English and it was cited as the inspirational source for the movie. describes the declining Qing Dynasty in the late 19th century. The nation’s fate seems to be of no importance to the leisure class, which is frequenting the brothel and only seems to care about opium and girls. The film consists of 38 plan-sequences (one scene-one shot) which all take place in dimly lit rooms, sophisticatedly emphasizing a detached world view. In the meantime, the collapse of the Qing Dynasty happens right before their very eyes.
(2019. 4K Restoration)
1998 Cannes Film Festival