Based on a famous 19th-century Chinese novel, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s 1998 drama is set in an upscale Shanghai brothel, a claustrophobic artificial paradise where courtesans and their upper-class clients smoke opium, argue about money, and indulge in witty gossip. The film opens with a brilliant seven-minute take; the languid yet precise cinematography throughout gives it the seductive power of a drug-induced dream.