Rewatch - This is where Hou's minimal storytelling reached its peak. As the film takes places only in a few claustrophobic "puppet stage", its events are mostly disclosed in conversations, pushing Ozu's ellipsis technique beyond the border, constructing it like no others. Up there with A City of Sadness and The Puppetmaster if not better
L'admirable style de Hou Hsiao-Hsien tourne à vide dans cette splendide reconstitution glacée où les mouvements de caméra, aussi élégants soient-ils, ne parviennent pas à faire oublier le manque d'épaisseur de la structure dramatique et la froideur d'un regard quelquefois par trop esthétisant... www.cinefiches.com
Flowers of Shanghai, another masterpiece amongst Hou Hsiao-Hsien's impressive cannon, is another delicte, sensitive and brilliantly structered piece of absolute art from the Taiwanese master. Yet again, Hsiao-Hsien pays a beautiful attention to detail, as every little element is magically constructed, from the stunning, yet claustrophobic cinematography (which serves the film perfectly) to narrative and sound.
Perhaps no other film deserves to be labeled "elegant" more than this. A film so formal, beautiful and simple that it is, at points, detremental to the drama. This issue stems from the dialogue being a bit too expositional, especially in the first act. This was to give weight to the mechanics of a rigorously ritualistic system, however the language that is used is a bit too direct. Excellent score and cinematography!