The Flowers of War 金陵十三钗~ Chinese Movies&TV

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Today let’s take a brief introduction of a famous Chinese movie named “The Flowers of War”.Based on Yan Geling‘s novel “13 Flowers of Nanjing,” the Nanjing massacre plays front and center in director Zhang Yimou‘s tale.

Zhang Yimou’s great gift for stories of resilient women serves him well in “The Flowers of War,” a uniquely harrowing account of the rape of Nanjing. Simultaneously florid and gritty, this fictitious drama about convent students and prostitutes hiding together from the 1937 Japanese onslaught is a work of often garish dramatic flourishes yet undeniable emotional power, finding humor and heartbreak in a tale of unlikely heroism in close quarters.

Making his way through the bombed-out rubble of Nanjing, American mortician John Miller (Bale) arrives at a cathedral to attend to a recently deceased priest. To the dismay of the church’s boy warden, George, and the dozen or so adolescent girl students in his care, Miller turns out to be a genially lazy opportunist who immediately plunders the communion wine supply.

When a small army of courtesans barge into the church seeking sanctuary from the Japanese, who have overtaken the city, Miller is delighted at the prospect of his own personal harem and flirts aggressively with the only one who can speak English, Yu Mo (Ni Ni). Knowing the Japanese won’t attack a white man, Yu demands that Miller help her and the other women escape Nanjing, while George similarly begs him to help shield the students.

Zhang entertainingly tracks the tensions among this strange gathering of individuals, even staging a near-catfight between the indignant students and their diva-like guests. But the infighting comes to an end when Japanese troops invade the church and, not realizing there are courtesans hiding in the vicinity, try to force themselves on the students – a sickening scene marked by the girls’ screams and the sounds of clothing being ripped, all whipped into a frenzy of terror. Yet the attackers are momentarily held at bay when Miller, in a moment of moral courage finds a way to stop their assault.

Scene by scene, “The Flowers of War” is an erratic and ungainly piece of storytelling, full of melodramatic twists and grotesque visual excesses, which are nonetheless delivered with startling conviction. Zhang has no interest in sparing the viewer’s sensitivity, and his willingness to push past the limits of good taste is what paradoxically lends his film a curious integrity.

On the surface, the most problematic element of Liu Heng’s screenplay (adapted from Yan Geling’s novel “13 Flowers of Nanjing”) is the familiar manner in which it uses a white American character as an entry point for Western audiences. Yet Miller turns out to be just one figure in a panorama that distributes dramatic weight evenly across the board, and allows the students and especially the courtesans to perform unexpected, deeply moving acts of decency and self-sacrifice. While not every character is individuated in the film’s large ensemble, the viewer emerges with a sense of a vibrant and varied human tapestry whose colors glow all the brighter in the wake of impending catastrophe.

Twenty-four years after starring as a young lad trapped in Japan-occupied China in “Empire of the Sun,” Bale has fun playing Miller as a loutish, liquored-up rascal early on before slowly becoming a figure of integrity and fatherly tenderness, a transformation managed by sheer force of movie-star charisma more than anything else. The actor blends in surprisingly well with the mostly non-pro distaff cast, including 23-year-old newcomer Ni, who comes off as stilted in her English dialogue scenes but charges her other moments with a quiet, radiant dignity.

Other thesps who register strongly include Atsuro Watabe as a Japanese colonel with a deceptively kind, cultured appearance; Tong Dawei as a heroic Chinese soldier who protects the church with his dying breath; 13-year-old Zhang Xinyi as the brave young student who narrates much of the drama; and Cao Kefan as her desperate, hapless father, a role virtually identical to the one played by dead ringer Fan Wei in “City of Life and Death.”

The film’s reported $100 million budget is entirely evident in its large-scale battle sequences, shot and staged with intense verisimilitude and impressive spatial coherence. Yohei Taneda’s production design, particularly his set for the cavernous cathedral space, repeats a staggering feat of period reconstruction in the streets of Nanjing itself. Chan Quigang’s score is effective but goes a bit heavy on the violins.

 

严歌苓Yán Gēlíng:a famous Chinese writer, author of several novels, short stories and screenplays. Much of her work has been adapted for film. She is currently represented by the Hong Kong based Peony Literary Agency
南京Nánjīng: the capital of Jiangsu province in eastern China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions.
张艺谋Zhāng Yìmóu:a Chinese film director, producer, writer and actor, and former cinematographer.[3] He is counted amongst the Fifth Generation of Chinese filmmakers, having made his directorial debut in 1987 with Red Sorghum.

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