nanking! nanking!

May 12th, 2009

Watched 《南京!南京!》/City of Life and Death last night. It was filmed in a cool, black and white, hand-held camera, following the people kind of way, as if it were assembled from documentary footage of the actual rape of Nanjing. But that’s about all the good I can say for the film.

Yes, it was brutal, but:

  1. It was brutal right up to the point where the censors start reaching for their scissors, but no more than that, and far from brutal enough to start discussing where to cut, let alone what to ban; and
  2. I’m not the kind of freak that gets his jollies from watching brutality.

Those scenes dealing with rape and forced prostitution, for example, were tactless enough to leave you in no doubt as to what was being portrayed, but far from graphic. Those scenes dealing with mass murder, the machine-gunning of masses of people, were far, far from Saving Ryan’s Privates, didn’t even approach 《集结号》/Assembly‘s level of battle scene graphic-ness. I found it all rather dulled-down, softened.

But it was just a boring film, really. The story didn’t grab me, precious few of the characters held my interest, and those that did were only very mildly interesting, like the old, scrappy white bearded, stooped, walking-sticked beggar I saw on the subway the other day who had a can of Yanjing beer in the drink-holder of his fairly new looking backpack. Interesting enough to notice, not interesting enough to tell your friends about, in other words.

A lot like Zhang Yimou’s recent martial arts films, really: Cool cinematography and use of colour (but in completely different ways), and that’s… ah… about… it… um… yeah…

And the title of this post? I’m pretty sure I saw the English name ‘Nanking! Nanking!’ in the opening credits instead of City of Life and Death, or whatever the official English name of the film is.

Oh, and it’s completely irrelevant, but that beggar I saw on the subway the other day I mentioned, the one with a can of Yanjing beer in the drink-holder of his new-looking backpack: I’m pretty sure I remember his clothes looking like they’d been bought new from a late 1970s National Geographic article on a trip through southwest China. Just saying.

And lzh’s verdict (on the film, I mean, she didn’t see the beggar): 没有什么plot. 乱七八糟的。(No plot. Messy.)

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