Set in the Qing dynasty, The Flowers of Shanghai offers a look at life amongst courtesans who cater to elite men who gather in brothels to eat, drink, gamble and . . . we never see what else. The camera stays in the main rooms. So use your imagination.
The film’s strength was its costumes and set. The languid ladies squabbles about getting money from their biggest customers left me cold. I understand that was the tradition within this subculture but it wasn’t clear that the patron was obligated to give his flower as much as she wanted. As girls these women were sold to the flower houses, yet they can marry their way out of this life. These characters didn’t win me over.
The arguments were repeated throughout the film. If there were some change in direction, a revelation or action, my interest would have grown. Sumptuous silk costumes can only do so much to help a movie.
The Dressing Downton exhibit has opened in Chicago at the Driehaus Museum. I’d never been to the Driehaus, but the exhibit drew me. In this restored mansion once owned by the Nickerson Family, there’s an exhibit of the costumes featured in PBS’ Masterpiece’s lavish drama Downton Abbey.
This Gilded Age mansion was the perfect venue to see costumes of the same era. With your $25 admission, you get a free audio tour, which enables you to hear not only the descriptions of the rooms, but the stories behind the costumes from the early 20th century. In several cases the costumers would find a vintage dress and embellish or restore what remained of it, which gives the clothes more authenticity.
My friend and I savoured both the costumes and the house itself so it took about 2 hours to get through the three story house. If you drive down, you can get your parking validated so you wind up paying just $14 for 12 hours parking, which is a real deal in Chicago. The museum is holding several events such as author talks and a viewing party for the series’ finalé. I wish I could attend, but I leave for China tomorrow. Alas.