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City of Life And Death Review

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Nanking, 1937. As the Japanese Imperial Army closes in on the Chinese capital, a small band of soldiers are all that stand between the population and a maelstrom of violence.

★★★★

Chinese director Lu Chuan wrenches the 1937 Rape Of Nanking from historical footnote to cinematic headliner in this black-and-white depiction of the Sino-Japanese War’s most notorious incident. Victorious Japanese troops, the idealistic Kadokawa (Hideo Nakaizumi) apart, march into China’s capital with brutality in mind, raping and murdering on a barely believable scale.

The unfolding events are portrayed with great skill by Chuan, who spares us none of the horror, depositing the viewer in a disorientating maelstrom of violence that recalls Saving Private Ryan and Klimov’s Come And See in its ferocity. Unsanitised and at times almost unwatchable, it burns off the screen.

Passionate and expertly crafted, this black-and-white opus is well worth seeking out.

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