英文评论

    On The Flowers of War

“该片的三个严重局限:其一,《金》严重缺失对南京大屠杀的历史揭示和反思,不能让观众意识到为什么这是一场血腥丑恶的“灾难”;其二,张艺谋在电影中表现了完全违背历史真实和电影的现实性原则的“电影魔术师”的作风,将根本不可能出现的情景,肆意安置在电影中,像肥皂剧的恶作一样;其三,为了表现全球化,尤其是为了向美国观众和影评人讨好,设置的“美国混混变英雄”的男主角约翰是一个虚假而无生命的角色,奥斯卡明星Christian
Bale完全是承担了“一个错误的角色”。”

“He who watched The Flowers of War without convulsion in himself can
only be a bloody animal or a cold Japanese.”

THE NEW YORK TIMES
The Flowers of War
A Shady American in the Nanjing Massacre
By MIKE HALE
Published: December 20, 2011
 
Eventually, it seems, every senseless waste of life gets its own gauzy
tear-jerker. That’s about the only way to justify “The Flowers of War,”
in which the veteran Chinese director Zhang Yimou revisits the Nanjing
massacre of 1937 by making something resembling a backstage musical,
with breaks for the occasional ghastly murder or rape.
There’s nothing that says the atrocity blockbuster has to be a disaster
in its own right; films like “Gone With the Wind” and “Gallipoli” have
their good points. But long before its two and a half hours are up, “The
Flowers of War” is sunk by the disproportion between the events being
portrayed and Mr. Zhang’s distanced, strangely frivolous treatment of
them — in essence, his refusal to take a point of view on one of the
most gruesome chapters in Chinese history.
“Flowers” has received bountiful publicity for being expensive,
state-approved and Oscar-submitted, buzz that got louder last week when
the film’s British star, Christian Bale, was forcibly prevented from
visiting a Chinese activist lawyer being held under house arrest.
But fears that Mr. Zhang would take a one-dimensional, patriotic
approach to the Japanese invasion and occupation of Nanjing (formerly
Nanking), while not entirely unfounded, are misplaced. Other recent
Chinese films have displayed more sentimental nationalism, jingoism and
demonization of the Japanese enemy.
His real approach to the events of 1937 is to use them as a backdrop for
the kind of deluxe, Hollywood-inspired melodrama that has made him an
art-house favorite. In the process he fails to deliver on most of the
elements — grandeur, historical sweep, genuine pathos — that would have
made the film worthwhile.
Given the right story, as in “Raise the Red Lantern” or “House of the
Flying Daggers,” Mr. Zhang’s almost clinical attention to pretty
surfaces and soap-opera mechanics can have entertaining results. In
“Flowers,” though, you can feel him at war with his material, never
settling on a tone or a compelling or even coherent narrative. (The
screenplay is by Liu Heng and Geling Yan, based on a novel by Ms.
Yan.)
Mr. Zhang’s distance from the larger story of the massacre is embodied
in his decision to set most of the film within the compound of a
fictional European church. The result is an artificial, back-lot
atmosphere; the opening scenes, set in the streets, take place in an
actual fog of war, with smoke (and at one point the dust from a large
mound of flour) isolating the characters from the real world of
Nanjing.
Mr. Bale plays John Miller, a disreputable American vagabond who happens
to be a mortician; as the film begins he is making his way through the
fighting toward the church, where he is to be paid to conduct a burial.
Also on the move are two groups of a dozen or so young women, the
flowers of the title. They are, as a matter of production design if not
credible history, visually coded: convent students in severe blue
jackets and prostitutes in seductive, rainbow-hued silken dresses.
All of these parties take refuge in the church, with Miller, who dons
the robes of a dead priest, bridging the Manichaean divide between the
suspicious students upstairs and the contemptuous, defensive prostitutes
hiding in the basement. (They quickly transform their cellar into a
seraglio; you can practically smell the perfume.) It’s a contrived,
hothouse state of affairs, summed up in a scene Mr. Zhang likes so much
that he repeats it: the laughing prostitutes sashaying across the
churchyard in slow motion, oblivious to the impending tragedy.
There will be tragedy, of course, though when it comes it takes a
weirdly oblique form. One group eventually performs what appears to be
an ultimate sacrifice, full of sexual and social overtones, but this
happens off-camera, if it happens at all. The coyness can be explained,
perhaps, in terms of the film’s structure — the story is narrated by one
of the students, and what we see may correspond to her selective,
romanticized memories — but it cannot really be excused.
On-screen, meanwhile, the camera ventures into the outside world in
occasional scenes that seem timed to goose the action and remind us that
we’re watching a war movie. In one of Mr. Zhang’s few outright
concessions to the notion of Chinese supremacism, a lone officer (Tong
Dawai) draws a contingent of Japanese soldiers away from the church in
an act of hyperbolic heroism. Later, in a surrender to gross
sentimentality, two prostitutes leave the church on the sort of insane
mercy mission that happens only in movies, with particularly disturbing
consequences. Aside from that sequence Mr. Zhang is restrained in his
depictions of Japanese brutality, which mostly take the form of threats
and intimidation.
Mr. Bale, turning in a respectable if oddly chipper performance under
the circumstances, has the unfortunate task of playing a character who
doesn’t really add up. Miller’s conversion from opportunist to savior
may be another stock element of this sort of movie, but the scene meant
to showcase his transformation is rushed and ineffective. Having made an
American the central figure in his film, Mr. Zhang reduces him to
wrangling flocks of nubile women, like Cary Grant in a much more violent
“Father Goose.”
“The Flowers of War” suffers greatly in comparison to several far
superior, less hyped movies about the Nanjing massacre, including the
harrowing drama “City of Life and Death,” directed by Lu Chuan, and the
documentary “Nanking,” by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman. Those
filmmakers came armed with points of view. Mr. Zhang, retreating into
the mists of old movies, has declined to take the field.
“The Flowers of War” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent
or adult guardian). War violence and sexual assault.

                             ————An Audience

Before watching this extraordinary Zhang Yimou Film, I read a professor
from Tongji University’s comments: a combination of blood, porn and
violence that is only want of commercial advertising. Now, I can hardly
understand his and some others’ comments on such an artifact.

Some may argue that it is a mere combination of blood, porn and
violence. However, I saw Japanese cruelty and Chinese morality. And I
can imagine more of these. An artifact can veil its aesthetics in any
form of expression that can be tasty, can be funny, can be bloody, or
even can be horrible. I don’t believe so called blood, porn and violence
in the movie is a simple combination, it is rather, a skillful tackle.
War, to any degree is of great cruelty, the reality that the film is
based on and elevates itself over.

Some say this film has no climax, which as far as I see, is a sheer
misunderstanding of the film. It has several climaxes which gives
audience hyper-drive from the very beginning to the end. The first is
the death of Soldier Li who fought to his last drop of blood to save the
students, mansifesting that one can die a heavy death, heavier than
Mount Tai. He died for patriotism. The second climax appeared at the
death of Dou, a prostitute who was gang-raped by Japanese soiliers. Her
“folly” was that she wished to play a beautiful tune for a dying young
soldier. She died for love. The third climax arrived at the prostitutes
(including one boy student) determination to attend Japanese celebration
of conquer of Nanking, repalcing the students who were virgins. Though
their fate was known from the film, I can hardly associate their fate
with survival, for ,as Moyu, the heroin said: “After tonight my body
shall never belong to myself.” The last climax appeared at the end of
the film, John successfully carried the students out of the hell. He saw
brightness and his tears flooded. This scene, happy and tragical at the
same time, reminded the previous sacrifices, deaths for patriotism,
deaths for love, and most importantly, deaths for humanity. It is out of
these superpositional death that lifted the children out of this living
hell, and they are like ocean waves beating the shore again and again,
waking up our souls.

Unlike Lifetimes Living, Zhang’s another moive which pictured the
evolution of Chinese society, The Flowers of war just gave us a single
scene of Nanking Massacre, which in profile give our imagination full
space, leading us to ponder over many things.

Many audience cried during and after the film, but I held my tears and
let them pour into my blood. Anger, convulsion, and respect mixed
together in my body and pieced my nerves. I thus only wanted to write
something for those Chinese people who died in Nanking Massacre. I
believe, any intentional misleading and hyperbole disfurging critism on
this film will be as pale as a piece of paper.

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