This is a column where I view then briefly review films that have been on my to-see list. Here are my thoughts.
One of 2010’s best reviewed films ain’t half bad.
Chuan Lu’s epic is set during the 1937 invasion of the Japanese, in Nanking, China. It follows (thoroughly) the Rape of Nanking, and how one nation attempted to cope in the awful conditions and downright horror they lived in through that time.
Shot in vivid monochrome, Nanking is war-torn in the truest sense of the word; buildings collapsed everywhere, dead bodies in the rubble, the living wandering like zombies through the shocked streets. But it’s with the people where the actual damage is done: through the course of the film’s time-leaps, Kadokawa appears to be the most relatable. His quiet repulsion at what his troops are doing is quite believable, and in the end, devestating. The others, Mr. Tang and Miss Jiang – who are just as important – actually endure most of the jaw-dropping sacrifices and sufferings.
In the end, the characters are wonderful – totally convincing performances are what any war film needs, and City Of Life And Death succeeds. However the narrative flow, mainly during the first half, flutters around too much from one scene to the next, without giving enough of an anchor to know just what the hell is going on. But once it settles, it’s really powerful stuff – including a number of the most saddening, shocking moments in a genre full of them.