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City Of Life And Death review

For Europeans, WW2 kicked off in 1939. But for China it began a whole lot earlier.

The Japanese were making expansionist inroads into Chinese territory from the early ’30s, and in 1937 launched a full-on invasion, culminating in a massive assault on the then capital, Nanjing.

Hopelessly outgunned, the Chinese army suffered a crushing defeat and the fallen city was subjected to appalling brutality. It’s estimated that more than 250,000 Chinese were killed, most of them unarmed civilians – not to mention wholesale raping, looting and wanton destruction.

Writer/director Lu Chuan’s film tells the whole harrowing story in austere black-and-white, sparing us nothing: the violence is indiscriminate and often horrifyingly casual.

Not that the invaders are demonised: much of the action is shown through the eyes of a Japanese soldier, Kadokawa (Hideo Nakaizumi), sickened by what he sees. Not easy viewing but a story that needed telling – especially as powerfully as it is here.
 

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