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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The rape of Nanking
I wanted to see this after having seen, `City of War' last year which allegedly tells the story of John Rabe, who is acknowledged for having saved thousands of Chinese during what has gone down I history as `The rape of Nanking'. This film aims to tell the true version of events and includes the efforts made by John Rabe and the small international delegation that stayed...
Published on 24 Jan 2011 by Tommy Dooley

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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dark and harrowing scenes
It is difficult to review this film. To give it five stars would suggest the violent scenes within are good. To give it one star would be to unkindly negate the powerful portrayal of a difficult subject matter. The film tells the story of the infamous 'Rape of Nanking', where Japanese soldiers committed atrocities against unarmed Chinese civilians for days on end after...
Published on 27 Jan 2011 by M. McManus


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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The rape of Nanking, 24 Jan 2011
By 
Tommy Dooley (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: City of Life & Death [DVD] (DVD)
I wanted to see this after having seen, `City of War' last year which allegedly tells the story of John Rabe, who is acknowledged for having saved thousands of Chinese during what has gone down I history as `The rape of Nanking'. This film aims to tell the true version of events and includes the efforts made by John Rabe and the small international delegation that stayed on to help the Chinese.

Director Lu Chuan tells the unrelenting horror story of the six week occupation in an observational way but it is impossible to not become partisan as the Japanese are seen to be little short of murdering monsters. He uses several characters to tell the story and has interestingly included an Imperial Japanese Army soldier who has a guilty conscience. He even feels he is having a relationship with on of the euphemistically titled `comfort girls'. This depiction of a confused and caring Japanese soldier actually brought death threats to Lu and his family as being over sympathetic and it was removed from some mailnland Chinese cinemas, however it was saved by the personal support from Li Changchun, a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China.

That aside this is unrelenting in its quite often graphic depiction of the murders, beheadings rapes, and mass executions that took place taking the lives of 300,000 Chinese.

It is shot entirely in black and white and is actually lit brilliantly to give it a period feel (probably to reflect that these events took place in 1937). However the cinematographic beauty aside, this was a very harrowing and sobering film, which I must confess I found hard to get through. That is not because it runs for 130 mins, but because I found the constant brutality a bit much and I do not consider myself to be a bit soft on such matters. The only film I ever walked out of for gross content was `Salo -or 120 days of Sodom' (I was actually in my own home at the time). Even though this is blisteringly real, beautifully shot and exceptionally well acted, I found it both demanding and moving.

As I said above this is not for the faint hearted and accusations of anti Japanese propaganda should be dismissed as this tends towards trying to examine the human spirit in the depths of loss and despair. A truly excellent and stunning piece of cinema.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving testimony to China's suffering and Japan's shame, 11 Jun 2011
By 
Cartimand (Hampshire, UK.) - See all my reviews
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This remarkable movie is an utterly visceral account of the infamous 'Rape of Nanking', during which the Japanese Imperial army tortured and massacred hundreds of thousands of POWs and Chinese civilians.

The story unfolds almost in a stream-of-consciousness style as seen through the eyes of real people. These include Westerners caught up in the massacre such as "good Nazi" John Rabe, who saved a great many Chinese in similar manner to Schindler saving Jews. The countless Chinese victims include horrifically abused women, the tragic family man Mr Tang and the remarkably stoic little boy Xiaodouzi, who will truly melt your heart. Bravely for a Chinese director, obviously aware of the PRC's official line on how to depict the enemy, director Lu Chuan also depicts one honourable Japanese soldier. Kadokawa, played sensitively by Hideo Nakaizumi, contrasts enormously with the shameful cowardice and savagery of his fellow Japanese soldiers.

The director's choice to shoot in black and white adds a certain historical gravitas to the film which, in Blu-Ray, looks utterly stunning. Every spot and wrinkle is visible on every face and the bleak, blasted cityscapes appear remarkably close to photos I've seen from the real Nanking. Whilst some scenes are certainly shocking, there's not a huge amount of actual gore. The true horror is depicted in the victims' eyes and in scenes where the director lets the viewers' imagination fill in the blanks; a memorable example being the many women marching away after being coerced into becoming "comfort women" for the Japanese - and the very few women staggering back with horror in their eyes.

Be warned - this film may well leave you hating the Japanese. It would be unfair to dismiss City of Life and Death as propaganda though, because it is based very closely on factual events. If it encourages people to research what happened during those six weeks in 1937, then the director has done his job. Even at over two hours, the film does not feel over-long and I will freely admit that it moved me to tears more than once.

This is a must-see film which sheds some horrifically grim but much-needed light on the "forgotten Holocaust".
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chuan Rides the Whirlwind., 2 Oct 2010
By 
Bob Salter "Captain Spindrift" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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Lu Chuan's startling debut film was the innovative and very entertaining "The Missing Gun". He followed this up with the magisterial eco fable "Kekexili Mountain Patrol", which showcased a burgeoning talent for sweeping cinematography. He then stepped up to make the big budget "City of Life and Death", the epic story of the infamous "Rape of Nanking". Many a talented director weaned on smaller budget movies has crashed and burned with the greater demands required of the epic. Thankfully Lu Chuan is not one of those, and has enhanced his reputation further in the West, if not in his Chinese homeland where the sympathetic treatment of one Japanese soldier caused controversy. Such is still the anguish to the Chinese psyche at the mere mention of Nanking even to this day.

The film commences at the fall of the great Chinese city to the Imperial Japanese army. This signals the commencement of an orgy of violence on a biblical scale. Those of a sensitive disposition might be advised to steer well clear of this film as it does not shirk from depicting many of the atrocities committed, which makes both for compelling and harrowing viewing. We follow the lives of individuals from both sides in this barbarous cauldron, where life can be very cheap indeed. At times you are inevitably reminded of the horror of the holocaust, with the stream of slaughterhouse like images that assail the senses. If the film sets out to shock, then it certainly achieves its aim.

The film is aptly made in a stark black and white which is appropriate given the sombre subject matter. Some of the images are beautifully composed, with powerful cinematography. Lu Chuan manages to avoid the pitfalls of sensationalising the violence, which is filmed in a matter of fact way, showing the scant regard for life and the arbitrary nature of the killing fields. The well documented atrocities committed by the Japanese in Nanking were even worse than the film depicts, it should be added. A special mention should be made of Hideo Nakizumi's towering performance as the controversially sympathetic Japanese Sergeant Kadokawa. He is at the centre of some of the films best scenes, especially in the films immensely powerful ending.

Lu Chuan has made a brave decision, in trying to make a film about such an appalling piece of history. There have been many films to highlight "Man's inhumanity to Man", and any director would be challenged with such volatile material, but Chuan has ridden the whirlwind and made a very fine film, although one you may not wish to see more than once. He is a director who has the armament to forge a glittering career, and perhaps even match some of the old Japanese masters of cinema. I look forward to his next film with great anticipation.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rarely mentioned Japanese War crime, 9 Mar 2011
By 
Pete Johnson "Pete Johnson" (Norfolk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: City of Life & Death [DVD] (DVD)
This recent film from Chinese cinema tells the story of 'The Rape of Nanking',a terrible atrocity committed by the Japanese army during their war with China in the 30's. Told from both sides, and filmed in black and white, lending a terrible authenticity to the events, this is a modern classic. Sadly, it is unlikely to get the attention it deserves. As well as portraying the main events, it also tells the story of the German doctor, John Rabbe, and his efforts to save many of the civilians he gave shelter to. Like many recent Chinese films, the acting is always first class, the characters sympathetic and believable, and the action sequences are realistic and relentless. I hope this film does not suffer from the usual brigade of subtitle haters, as it deserves a wide audience, to remind us that terrible things were being done by aggressors long before the Nazis invaded Poland.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth is hard to swallow, 27 Sep 2010
By 
G. Phillips "Boyd" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: City of Life & Death [DVD] (DVD)
This is a long overdue portrayal of the horrendous atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army and is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in historical truth. If the film has any flaws it would be that the narrative is somewhat disjointed, however, given the nature of the events it seems quite fitting to lend something of an air of confusion to the story. Personally, I think that in terms of representing the disgusting inhumanity of the Japanese occupation, the film did not go nearly far enough... Also, there is little investigation into what motivated the Japanese troops to behave in such a barbaric manner, save a scene towards the end which tips a nod towards the Bushido (The Samurai warrior code) and the centrality of Shinto Buddhism in Japanese Nationalism, but beyond this, save the stricken conscience of one Japanese character, there is not a great deal to go on... Having said that, the film rightly centres on the depredations of Chinese civilians and defeated soldiers (and the outbreak of Chinese nationalist passion at one point in the film, is nothing but understandable, and somewhat muted for a Chinese-made film).

Other reviewers have made spurious comparisons with "Schindler's List" due to the film being shot in stark monochrome and the role played by John Rabe, Siemens employee and Nazi Party member, and while the theme is similar -the salvation of innocents from unreasoning, imperialist and inhuman aggressors, I think the director chose to make the film in black and white to reinforce the historical gravitas of the subject matter, and the part played by Rabe is an inescapable fact of history. (The reviewer who described this film as 'boring' must suffer from an incredibly short attention span and be the sort of film-goer who prefers his 'war films' in the John Wayne mould...).

This film is, by turns, deeply disturbing, affecting and beautifully shot. The performances are excellent, and worth a second viewing, which is why I've bought a copy having watched it as a rental... I'd say it was more of a 'memorable' film rather than an 'unforgettable' film, although in the face of both Japanese and Chinese denials of this history it ought to be unforgettable, and probably will be to those who live in ignorance of their fellow human's capacity for obscene violence... As a companion to this film I'd like to recommend- Nanking [DVD] [2007],and also-The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. It is worth pointing out that when the above book was written, it was the first full account of the Nanking atrocity and that the author (Iris Chang) quite possibly gave her life for this history to be more widely acknowledged, having died in somewhat mysterious circumstances...The documentary followed her book, and "City of Life and Death" followed the documentary...
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Rape of Nanking, 18 Mar 2010
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
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As far as definitions for Hell on Earth go, the assault on the Chinese city of Nanking by the invading Japanese army in 1937 is certainly on a par with the horrors of the worst of the Nazi concentration camps. Ruthlessly and systematically wiping out of the Chinese army soldiers defending the town, the abuse, torture and mass execution of citizens and the notorious rape and murder of the city's women engaged as "comfort women" for the Japanese troops is one of the darkest moments in the history of modern war crimes.

It's a harrowing subject with material of such a degree of obscenity that, despite it being a popular subject for film with several documentary attempts and another film about John Rabe released around the same time as this one, it's a difficult one to approach within the limits of what a conventional war movie can show. Appropriately then, Lu Chuan adopts a style and approach similar to Steven Spielberg in Schindler's List, shooting in eye-catching widescreen black-and-white, taking in multiple viewpoints that chart the complete breakdown of any recognisable human qualities into barbarism on an unimaginable scale. Initially, there's the view from the Chinese soldiers defending the city, as well as the view from a young Japanese officer Kadokawa. The city taken, the view switches to the "Safe Zone" (which in reality is far from safe at all) established by the Nazi representative in the town John Rabe, seen mainly from the perspective of his Chinese assistant Mr Tang, his wife and family.

City of Life and Death is an exceptionally well-made film, a true war epic, although, like Schindler's List, it could also be accused of being much too attractively photographed in glossy black-and-white, effectively glamorising a subject that should simply be unwatchable. It's hard to imagine however how else a film about the Rape of Nanking could be made. What matters is how honestly and effectively the film approaches the subject and the historical reality, and while it spares us graphic detail of the worst abuses, the full mounting horror of what occurred and the impact it must have had on individuals caught up within it is unquestionably fully felt. A powerful and moving film then and essential viewing, but like Schindler's List, perhaps not one you'd want to come back to watch very often.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Twinned with the Yasukuni Jinja, 4 Mar 2012
By 
Charles Vasey (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: City of Life & Death [DVD] (DVD)
This is a powerful but very grim film; it opens with the military resistance of the Chinese in Naking and swiftly moves into the massacres, rapes and conscripting of Chinese women for the mobile bordellos of the Japanese army. You know that things are going to be extreme when a Nazi official is a hero. Filmed in stark gray and white the Chinese are ground to pieces by the brutality of their Japanese conquerors whose behaviour resembles that of Europe in the Thirty Years War. This is still a sensitive issue in China, much as the Japanese behavour to Allied POWs is still remembered here.

Not one for someone feeling depressed.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lest we forget, 7 Feb 2011
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Brilliantly photographed and acted, this film rips the bloodied bandages from one of history's still open wounds - even after seventy odd years. I found it hard to watch. Whilst undoubtly and inevitably a selective depiction of the horrors and human struggles for survival that actually occurred, more than enough is revealed to confirm mans inhumanity towards his fellows. If other messages were intended to be presented, they were unfortunately mostly lost on this viewer. Recommended to those who are unaware of this tragic paragraph in human history. Would that this was the last time such atrocities were perpetrated. Alas not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic, 29 May 2013
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the most powerful and moving anti-war film i have ever watched, cinematography and acting Brilliant, would URGE anybody to watch it asoon as they can, would have given another 5stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars disturbing but vital to watch., 26 Aug 2012
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I bought this having read other reviews of the film, as well as having seen clips of 'Flowers of War'which caught my attention.
This film is not for the faint hearted. The scenes of rape and bayonet practice on prisoners was horrific in black and white, and I dont think I could have coped with it being in colour.
The film Im sure gives the lie to those revisionists who claim it did not happen or that the numbers of rapes and murders were far lower than claimed.These individuals also said the same about the gas chambers and the final solution.
Time and again I find it difficult to connect the polite, charming and genuinely nice people that I have met who are German or Japanese, with their same countrymen of 2 generations before. You cannot believe they are the same nationalities.
If the world powers at the time of 1937 had acted with courage and conviction, rather than trying to appease regimes like Imperial Japan or Nazi Germany, the world might have turned out differently.
Unfortunately it takes the likes of Nanking,Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia, to make politicians get their fingers out and even then it is usually too late.
I cannot say I enjoyed the film, but Im glad I saw it and hope many other people will watch it,not for the blood and gore, but to learn from it as well.
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City of Life & Death [DVD]
City of Life & Death [DVD] by Lu Chuan (DVD - 2010)
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