1077 Flowers of Shanghai

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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DarkImbecile
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1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#1 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Feb 12, 2021 4:58 pm

Flowers of Shanghai

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An intoxicating, time-bending experience bathed in the golden glow of oil lamps and wreathed in an opium haze, this gorgeous period reverie by Hou Hsiao-hsien traces the romantic intrigue, jealousies, and tensions swirling around four late-nineteenth-century Shanghai “flower houses,” where the courtesans live confined to a gilded cage, ensconced in opulent splendor but forced to work to buy back their freedom. Among the regular clients is the taciturn Master Wang (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), whose relationship with his longtime mistress (Michiko Hada) is roiled by a perceived act of betrayal. Composed in a languorous procession of entrancing long takes, Flowers of Shanghai evokes a vanished world of decadence and cruelty, an insular universe where much of the dramatic action remains tantalizingly offscreen—even as its emotional fallout registers with quiet devastation.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by director Hou Hsiao-hsien and director of photography Mark Lee Ping-bing, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New introduction by critic Tony Rayns
  • Beautified Realism, a new documentary by Daniel Raim and Eugene Suen on the making of the film, featuring behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Lee, producer and editor Liao Ching-sung, production designer Hwarng Wern Ying, and sound recordist Tu Duu-chih
  • Excerpts from a 2015 interview with Hou, recorded for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Oral History Project
  • Trailer
  • English subtitle translation by Rayns
    PLUS: An essay by film scholar Jean Ma and a 2009 interview with Hou conducted by scholar Michael Berry

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Maltic
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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#2 Post by Maltic » Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:05 pm

First Hou film for Criterion. Better late than never...

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Big Ben
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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#3 Post by Big Ben » Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:15 pm

I'm under the impression for some reason that part of the reason some of Hou's stuff hasn't really been seen is due to stipulations about how they can be released. I think Fanciful Norwegian once clarified that some films couldn't be shown for profit or something? I cannot for the life of me remember the specifics but I am however grateful that we're getting a brand new restoration of one of Hou's films. I hope this is a sign of more to come.

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John Cope
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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#4 Post by John Cope » Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:17 pm

This is, for me, his greatest accomplishment and singular in that way so it seems the most appropriate of them all as a single release.

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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#5 Post by cowboydan » Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:19 pm

Very curious to see how this may improve over the current Taiwan and French BD releases. At least the Taiwan edition contains lots of banding.

beamish14
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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#6 Post by beamish14 » Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:24 pm

Big Ben wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:15 pm
I'm under the impression for some reason that part of the reason some of Hou's stuff hasn't really been seen is due to stipulations about how they can be released. I think Fanciful Norwegian once clarified that some films couldn't be shown for profit or something? I cannot for the life of me remember the specifics but I am however grateful that we're getting a brand new restoration of one of Hou's films. I hope this is a sign of more to come.
Neither City of Sadness nor The Puppetmaster can be commercially screened in North America at the present time, so if a nonprofit cinematheque wants to show them, they must be free viewings.

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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#7 Post by goblinfootballs » Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:35 pm

beamish14 wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:24 pm
Big Ben wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:15 pm
I'm under the impression for some reason that part of the reason some of Hou's stuff hasn't really been seen is due to stipulations about how they can be released. I think Fanciful Norwegian once clarified that some films couldn't be shown for profit or something? I cannot for the life of me remember the specifics but I am however grateful that we're getting a brand new restoration of one of Hou's films. I hope this is a sign of more to come.
Neither City of Sadness nor The Puppetmaster can be commercially screened in North America at the present time, so if a nonprofit cinematheque wants to show them, they must be free viewings.
Definitely paid to see City of Sadness at a non-profit two years ago...

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jindianajonz
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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#8 Post by jindianajonz » Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:41 pm

beamish14 wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:24 pm
Big Ben wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:15 pm
I'm under the impression for some reason that part of the reason some of Hou's stuff hasn't really been seen is due to stipulations about how they can be released. I think Fanciful Norwegian once clarified that some films couldn't be shown for profit or something? I cannot for the life of me remember the specifics but I am however grateful that we're getting a brand new restoration of one of Hou's films. I hope this is a sign of more to come.
Neither City of Sadness nor The Puppetmaster can be commercially screened in North America at the present time, so if a nonprofit cinematheque wants to show them, they must be free viewings.
Or do what they did when they toured a few years ago: charge for a lecture that happens to screen the film afterwards

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Maltic
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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#9 Post by Maltic » Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:47 pm

I wonder if the same has been the case for Tsai's 1990s and 2000s films. Presumably, Criterion would've released some of those as well, if they had been able to.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#10 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:55 pm

beamish14 wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:24 pm
Big Ben wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:15 pm
I'm under the impression for some reason that part of the reason some of Hou's stuff hasn't really been seen is due to stipulations about how they can be released. I think Fanciful Norwegian once clarified that some films couldn't be shown for profit or something? I cannot for the life of me remember the specifics but I am however grateful that we're getting a brand new restoration of one of Hou's films. I hope this is a sign of more to come.
Neither City of Sadness nor The Puppetmaster can be commercially screened in North America at the present time, so if a nonprofit cinematheque wants to show them, they must be free viewings.
That's tragic considering they're his two best, especially The Puppetmaster, which left me indifferent the first time but on my last viewing affected me so much that once it ended I immediately started it over again.

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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#11 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:57 pm

Maltic wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:47 pm
I wonder if the same has been the case for Tsai's 1990s and 2000s films. Presumably, Criterion would've released some of those as well, if they had been able to.
I doubt that's the case for Tsai's films. The issue with A City of Sadness of The Puppetmaster revolves around their shared producer, who wasn't in the industry for long before leaving for the greener pastures of big-time real estate. I believe the only other film he produced was Raise the Red Lantern, which has had somewhat spotty availability but nothing on quite the same level; my guess is this is because the film was a Chinese co-production and so he can't monopolize the rights to the same extent.

With Tsai, my understanding is that he owns most of his work through his company Homegreen Films, so I suspect it'll take awhile for him to get around to remastering them all. Vive l'amour and The River have already been remastered by the CMPC and they still lack U.S. distribution, but the CMPC also has Rebels of the Neon God and that got a U.S. re-release, so I don't know if there's an actual issue there. All three of the CMPC remasters are on Blu-ray in Japan, so it seems that they're available to licensors. Most of his other films are either spoken for by U.S. distributors (mainly Strand) and/or don't have HD-ready masters. The Hole actually got picked up by a U.S. distributor last year, but based on the obviously upscaled HD version they distributed through virtual cinemas, it hasn't been remastered, and the physical release was DVD-only.
goblinfootballs wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:35 pm
Definitely paid to see City of Sadness at a non-profit two years ago...
An organization I work with screened A City of Sadness in 2018 and the specific condition was that it could not be shown on a for-profit basis. We were a non-profit organization screening it in a non-profit cinema, so we were okay, but we were still strongly encouraged to attach some other event to it (in our case, a panel discussion). They didn't speak of it as a mandatory condition, but we didn't test them since we were already planning to make it a "special event" screening.

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hearthesilence
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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#12 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Feb 12, 2021 8:26 pm

goblinfootballs wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:35 pm
beamish14 wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:24 pm
Big Ben wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:15 pm
I'm under the impression for some reason that part of the reason some of Hou's stuff hasn't really been seen is due to stipulations about how they can be released. I think Fanciful Norwegian once clarified that some films couldn't be shown for profit or something? I cannot for the life of me remember the specifics but I am however grateful that we're getting a brand new restoration of one of Hou's films. I hope this is a sign of more to come.
Neither City of Sadness nor The Puppetmaster can be commercially screened in North America at the present time, so if a nonprofit cinematheque wants to show them, they must be free viewings.
Definitely paid to see City of Sadness at a non-profit two years ago...
I saw City of Sadness at BAM in 2009 and The Puppetmaster at MoMA a bit later (probably 2016?). Both are classified as non-profits. BAM didn't do anything special with their screening - perhaps they figured it was good enough to be classified as such? FWIW, it was in one of the smaller theaters, and it didn't sell out, so there certainly wasn't much profit involved. The Puppetmaster was a Bard College print - I remember Fanciful Norwegian or someone else posting about these issues in relation to the Hou retrospective that was touring, but there was no lecture or anything like that when it screened at MoMA. Same person also mentioned that Bard alluded to steps being taken to make sure an English subtitled print would be preserved - perhaps that was another workaround with screening the film (i.e. they didn't need to rent it as they had access to a newly made copy)? MoMA film tickets also count towards museum admission (or are included with admission), so that may have been a factor too.

In any case, it's definitely a shame - the DVDs for both aren't so great, especially the crappy pan-and-scan transfer that was done for The Puppetmaster.

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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#13 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Feb 12, 2021 8:38 pm

Image

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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#14 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Feb 12, 2021 8:52 pm

I was lucky enough to see virtually everything when the Hou retrospective came to the Harvard Film Archive. For even the films that had passable DVD versions, seeing these screened was a revelation. Puppetmaster was the most extreme -- like watching a totally different movie.

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hearthesilence
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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#15 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Feb 12, 2021 10:02 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 8:52 pm
I was lucky enough to see virtually everything when the Hou retrospective came to the Harvard Film Archive. For even the films that had passable DVD versions, seeing these screened was a revelation. Puppetmaster was the most extreme -- like watching a totally different movie.
Absolutely - I posted it here before, but it seriously undermines Hou's compositions and what he's trying to do with it. The most remarkable moment came during the play...
SpoilerShow
when they're snipping the queues off of every male
...and seen in the theater with the proper widescreen picture filling your view, the fusion between the viewer and the audience presented in that frame is startling.

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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#16 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Feb 12, 2021 11:50 pm

Indeed. I had no idea how great Puppetmaster was until I saw this screening.

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tenia
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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#17 Post by tenia » Sat Feb 13, 2021 6:55 am

cowboydan wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:19 pm
Very curious to see how this may improve over the current Taiwan and French BD releases. At least the Taiwan edition contains lots of banding.
The heavy DNR is baked-in the restoration approved by Hou and his DP anyway, so except if Criterion manages to obtain a file upstream, before the DNR was applied, but thus releasing something that wasn't the final look approved by Hou and his DP, they'll get the exact same file that Taiwan and France got.
The heavy banding however mostly comes from the Taiwanese encode, I don't recall such an issue on the French disc (which was encoded by David M).

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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#18 Post by yoloswegmaster » Sat Feb 13, 2021 10:55 am

The Taiwanese disc had banding since they put the entire film on a BD-25 disc.

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tenia
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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#19 Post by tenia » Sat Feb 13, 2021 11:02 am

And duplicated the 5.1 track in both a DTS HD MA and a Dolby TrueHD version, ie wasting 2-4 additionnal Mbps on top of that.
However, since the restoration is smooth as hell, I guess it's more down to the encode settings than the bitrate itself.

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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#20 Post by FrauBlucher » Mon May 10, 2021 3:30 pm


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hearthesilence
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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#21 Post by hearthesilence » Mon May 10, 2021 10:49 pm

FrauBlucher wrote:
Mon May 10, 2021 3:30 pm
Beaver
The DVDs were so shitty that the BD is undoubtedly a substantial upgrade - if you love this film, there's no way you're going to find better for home viewing.

But man, this was needlessly and heavily processed, not to mention poorly encoded. Besides the strange, chunky look (possibly from the heavy-handed "grain management" already mentioned) just look at the macroblocking on her face.

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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#22 Post by pistolwink » Fri May 14, 2021 5:10 am

The caps of this version seem notably brighter to me than the 35mm prints. I wonder if someone decided that the really deep blacks wouldn't register on people's television sets, etc.

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tenia
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Re: 1077 Flowers of Shanghai

#23 Post by tenia » Fri May 14, 2021 6:01 am

Oh it is absolutely clogged with crushed blacks, don't worry about that. As a whole, it's a trainwreck : it's smoothed as rarely, and the grading is filled to the brim with crushed blacks and bonkers colors (especially on skin tones).

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