CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH: DVD
On December 9, 1937, during the height of the second Sino-Japanese war and after the fall of Beijing and Shanghai, the Japanese Imperial Army laid siege to the ancient walled city of Nanking, then China's capital. The battle raged for six weeks claiming over 300,000 lives and countless casualties. It is estimated that some 80,000 women were raped. This dramatisation of that event is seen through the eyes of Lu Jianxiong (Ye Liu), a Chinese General determined to repel the enemy; Miss Jiang (Yuanyuan Gao) a young Chinese teacher, trying to protect as many as she can in an overcrowded shelter; Mr Tang (Wei Fan), an assistant to German businessman John Rabe (John Paisley) is hoping to find shelter in the International Safety Zone; and Kadokawa (Hideo Nakaizumi), an introverted and romantic Japanese sergeant helpless in the face of the impending atrocities.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Sobering, saddening and sometimes harrowing, Chuan Lu's dramatised version of the 1937 siege of Nanking by the Japanese is a cinematic triumph. Shot in black and white - adding a melancholy visual element to the story - the film reduces the terrible events to something we can somehow grasp. The reality is too apocalyptic to even imagine, its sheer scale of brutality and senseless suffering beyond our imagination. Certainly as a film.
Chuan Lu picks out a handful of characters whose experiences reflect the many: a Chinese soldier, a Japanese soldier, a pretty young Chinese teacher, a German businessman and his Chinese male secretary, and some characters on the edges, the boy, other Chinese soldiers, Japanese residents of Nanking and of course, some of the women who were forced to provide sexual services for the Japanese army.
The film is both a cathartic history lesson and a moving study of humanity amidst inhumanity. There are waves of inner anger unleashed as Japanese barbarity unfolds. We question how a civilisation of such enduring cultural depth and beauty can have such a powerful undercurrent of primitive brutality.
These emotions sometimes give way to an opposite sensation of human kindness, and not just amongst the Chinese victims of the siege. Indeed, by ensuring that the Japanese are not represented in a crude caricature, Chuan Lu makes the film an even more compelling work.
An astonishing achievement, City of Life and Death explores the most profound aspects of human history through a single, terrible event - and does so in haunting style.
Email this article
CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH: DVD (MA15+)
CAST: Ye Liu, Yuanyuan Gao, Hideo Nakaizumi, Wei Fan, Yiyan Jiang, Ryu Kohata, Bin Liu, Yuko Miyamoto, John Paisley, Beverly Peckous, Lan Qin, You Sima, Di Yao
PRODUCER: John Chong, Sanping Han, Hong Qin, Andy Zhang, Li Zhou
DIRECTOR: Chuan Lu
SCRIPT: Chuan Lu
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Yu Cao
EDITOR: Yun Teng
MUSIC: Tong Liu
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Yi Hao
RUNNING TIME: 135 minutes
PRESENTATION: 1:9; DD 5.1/2.0/, DTS 5.1. In Mandarin with English subtitles
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Gryphon Ent
DVD RELEASE: February 23, 2012