Baz’s review published on Letterboxd:
Painstakingly beautiful to look at, yet it’s not a film that I found myself really invested in due to the languid nature of it.
Director Hou Hsaio-Hsien is more interested in the mundanity of tradition than he is in telling an overall story. He plays with themes of alienation and segregation, betrayal and wealth, whilst never putting the camera in an arbitrary position; the viewer is only observing the cage-like existence of these houses. Everything we see on screen is only there to showcase the theatrics of the courtesan lifestyle, a gift and a curse of the film as we are only shown segments whilst de happens off camera.
I never found myself engaged with the characters, and therefore I couldn’t quiet love the film like I wanted to. I certainly was in awe of the style, Hou knows how to decorate a film, and his approach to the subject worked well. I think it’s a film that would definitely benefit from multiple viewings. To be honest, I’ll gladly return, even if I am playing the voyeur.