Shelly Reviews Nanjing Massacre blockbuster <i>City of Life and Death</i>
City of Life and Death (dir. Lu Chuan)
In the new issue of Cinema-Scope Magazine, our own Shelly Kraicer takes on last year’s Chinese blockbuster about the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, City of Life and Death by Lu Chuan. Shelly ties the film to the legacy of “zhuxuanlu” or “main melody” propaganda films produced by the government-sponsored Chinese film industry:
A look at City of Life and Death‘s genre and narrative strategies can demonstrate its importance in helping to establish what I’d like to call a nascent post-zhuxuanlu cinema. It is a full-out war epic, massively budgeted and vast in ambition. Huge sets of devastated Nanjing were built, and thousands of extras mobilized to illustrate the battle scenes that open the film. Lu films his striking set pieces in a beautifully modulated black and white, where cinematography, art direction, staging, music, and sound design all conspire to create massive, intentionally overwhelming images of violence, horror, and devastation.
Read more of Shelly’s review at Cinema-scope.
For an alternative view of the Japanese occupation of China and the story of “comfort women” – women who were forced to sexually serve Japanese soldiers – check out Ban Zhongyi‘s extraordinary documentary Gai Shanxi and Her Sisters.