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.
I gave Masterpiece’s The Collection a try when it premiered on Sunday. It didn’t take long for me to grow tired of a program where the characters all seemed dark, greedy and selfish. I confess after 10 minutes or so I changed the channel.
The show is about a struggling fashion house in Paris after WWII. The man in the center of the video’s first frame is the jaded, selfish owner of a fashion house is asked by a government official to help France’s fashion industry rise again to its former zenith. To his left is his reprobate brother who’s a talented designer who’s got substance abuse problems.
I’d much rather PBS brought back The Paradise, where the characters were flawed and faced obstacles, but the heroine was good, though not at all boring. Dark characters like those in House of Cards or The Collection aren’t necessarily fascinating.
If I got the show wrong, and should give it a chance by catching up online, let me know.