City of Life and Death (2011)
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as Lu Jianxiong
as Miss Jiang
as Mr. Tang
as Xiao Jiang
as John Rabe
as Minnie Vautrin
as Mrs. Tang
as Tang Xiaomei
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Critic Reviews for City of Life and Death
It is not an easy film, and perhaps a touch too relentless, but it is a great reminder of how bloody, mad and awful this world can be.
Lu Chuan makes this feature film soar by telling the story both through the eyes of the Japanese occupiers and the defenseless Chinese civilians in the ancient capital. It makes the savagery all the more senseless.
Exquisitely shot in black and white, with a rare attention to detail and dramatic complexity, "City of Life and Death" is a timelessly great film that commands our collective attention.
In almost any form, the story of the Nanking atrocities can leave you profoundly shaken. But Lu Chuan's version may be the most compassionate and emotionally satisfying treatment to date.
Here, in bloodless miniature, is the true obscenity of war.
Audience Reviews for City of Life and Death
Disturbing. Intense. Sickening. This is one of the most harrowing, and unflinching, accounts of human barbarity ever put to film. Solidly done. Definitely not for the squeamish....
A refugee camp comes under siege from the Japanese army during the fall of Nanjing during the Second World War. Beautifully shot in black and white and telling the harrowing story of the mass murder and horrific mistreatment of the population of the Chinese capital, City Of Life And Death can be seen as China's equivalent to Schindler's List but I'd have to say that Spielberg's classic at least had a tale of heroism at its centre. The horrifying events depicted here have more in common with the likes of Downfall; the environment of Nanjing is so hellish, the closest we come to a "good guy" is a Nazi! Based on true events, I'm not sure how much of it is completely accurate as even this hardened cynic found it hard to believe that only a single Japanese soldier acted with conscience or compassion, but Hideo Nakaizumi's performance as the aforementioned protagonist, sickened and traumatised by the actions of his compatriots works well as a way to avoid demonizing the Japanese and as an objective standpoint through which to view the events as they unfold. One of those films that's powerful rather than enjoyable, City Of Life And Death is another in the line of beautifully crafted testaments to man's seemingly infinite capacity for inhumanity.
I finished watching this film two hours ago and the punch in the stomach I received watching it still hurts. I don't recall having received such a punch in my 40 or so years of film watching. Unlike films such as "Schindler's List" or "Empire of the Sun", this film does not take sides. It's like a candid camera operated by an invisible grand master hidden in the crowd or the rubble. It's just there recording events. As a result, despite the fact that it focuses on the big picture, the individual is not lost: Both the Chinese and the Japanese, each and every one of them, in huge crowds are real believable characters. This gives the viewer a grand and horrible sense of presence which is what makes it so painful. It would take courage to watch it again. 5 Stars. 8-7-12
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