City of Life and Death (Nanjing! Nanjing!) [2009] • China, Hong Kong

Maybe the color palette confines itself to a too small range of gray but it is effective. Maybe a few scenes are overly dramatized for effect but I can hardly imagine anything comparing to the real events that transpired. This isn't a documentary and it's not a perfect film but it is an incredibly moving one. There was a bit of an uproar in China over this film, claiming it did not demonize the Japanese enough. A member of the Politburo intervened on behalf of the film to keep it in theaters. There's that to chew on. I honestly can't separate recommending the film from recommending being aware of this ugly bit of history. You could just read a wikipedia entry on the Rape of Nanjing but you could also just watch Dr. Phil or Oprah instead of ever going to the movies. It's like that.



  1. If only the sympathetic main character didn't commit suicide in the end, the movie would have had double impact. Really, just try to imagine the movie without the main character killing himself. I am sure you'll come to the same conclusion xD

  2. That was my absolute feeling when I finished watching the film. It felt so wrong. Then I got into a very large discussion about it on some film board. Not that my mind was fully changed but I came to appreciate another point of view. That whole scene was very complicated. I was trying to figure out why, and thought maybe Tang thought his wife was pregnant by, well ... let's just say ... not him. But probably not. Was it guilt over his actions or non-actions that resulted in the death of his daughter? Was it just to save one more life?

    It's pretty powerful the way it is. It's just so sad. I don't think Chuan Lu wanted anything near a happy ending. It wasn't a happy time. Wei Fan is great in the role.

  3. He basically shoots himself for no reason. He survived all the way through hell, what's the point in killing yourself once things turn back to normal? The audience really gets it that this soldier feels guily, no need to express it in such an extreme way just to please some of the Chinese viewers.

    The image with the evil captain sitting in his bad near the end was so much more powerful. Ah well ...

    I just don't get what the director wanted to tell the audience with that scene. "And from then on, there were only evil guys in the Japanese army?"

    But then still, Kadokawa or whatever his name was, passed on his flame to his junior. But still it doesn't make any sense for him to die ...

  4. Oh! I thought you meant Tang, who, for all practical purposes committed suicide. But yeah, Kadokawa. I think that was for the Chinese Film Bureau.