Friday 3 August 2012

"The Flowers of War" (Metro 03/08/12)

The Flowers of War (15) 145 mins **

One of WW2’s worst atrocities, the Rape of Nanking has caught the movies’ attention only recently, prompting three films in rapid succession. Following the so-so John Rabe and the exceptional City of Life and Death, Zhang Yimou (Hero) here offers a largely fictive drama, drawn from Yan Geling’s novel, which rather bizarrely approaches these events in Gok Wan fashion: as an opportunity for makeovers all round. Christian Bale’s opportunistic American mortician becomes unlikely protector to the streetwalkers and kiddiwinks seeking refuge in a convent – once he’s nobly ditched his hipflask and a manky Colonel Sanders beard.

Any exploration of the strange allegiances forged in wartime gets muffled by an often stilted script, translated into English for easier international consumption. Zhang is more concerned with finding ways to redress low historical blows as glowing, audience-friendly spectacle. Snipers expire in eruptions of coloured rags, blood splatters tattered furnishings, and curtains are transformed into dresses as a faintly silly plot to disguise the hookers as schoolgirls takes shape. Like a Sony Bravia ad with a bodycount, it sure looks pretty – but surely it’s a pretty questionable aim to try and make the Rape of Nanking look good?

The Flowers of War opens in selected cinemas today, ahead of its DVD release on Monday.

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