Wednesday, August 4, 2010

MIFF 2010: City of Life and Death


Japanese troops beseige and conquer the Chinese captial Nanking.

City of Life and Death is fiction but is based on the experiences of real people who were caught up in this shocking tale of war and inhumanity. It has the feel of a documentary and recreates in black and white, the horror captured on film at the time. Mass executions, brutality, rape, and forced prostitution are presented in the matter of fact way that they were carried out.

This isn't anti-Japanese propaganda though the shame of their actions should not be forgotten. Kakodawa (Hideo Nakaizumi), a young soldier, represents the human side of the invaders. Just as Mr. Tang (Wei Fan) shows the desperate attempts that some locals tried to protect their families.

If there are heroes in this story, they are the women. Plus one child, Xiaodouzi (Bin Liu), who is still alive today. The dramatic focus is the International Safety Zone, where an illusory attempt to help refugees from the slaughter takes place.

This film should be compulsory viewing in a world that still seems obsessed with going to war.

MIFF 2010: The Killer Inside Me

Perhaps you have to be in the mood. Michael Winterbottom's The Killer Inside Me was disappointing. This portrait of evil will suit fans of gratuitous violence but as a character study it fell way short. It's part crime thriller, part horror, part psychological drama.

It may have been because Casey Affleck plays bad cop Lou Ford with his cowboy drawl that is impossible to understand at times. Is this great acting or poor elocution?

The plot was both unlikely and predictable. We are asked to accept that Ford has suddenly come out in his late twenties as a nasty after years as a nice guy. The trigger of a slap on the face hardly explains the sudden emergence of Mr. Hyde.

The law enforcement people, led by DA Howard Hendricks (Simon Baker), are not the brightest bunch. Even basic forensic science of the early 1950s like fingerprinting seem beyond them. Their extraordinary lack of any sense of smell at the final confrontation is amazing.

This film is pretty pedestrian pulp fiction. Perhaps the storyline of the original crime novel was fresh in 1952. It just seems to have been done to death on film and television.

Of the victims, Jessica Alba performance is much more memorable as Joyce Lakeland than Kate Hudson as girlfriend Amy Stanton. The rest of the male cast had the appeal of a telemovie.

As a longime Tarantino follower, the blood saturation point may have been reached for me.