China unveils rare star power of Oscar entry

Sun Dec 11, 2011 8:31am EST
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By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) - Zhang Yimou, one of China's best-known directors, is banking on heartthrob Christian Bale to help boost the country's chances of winning an Oscar, with his latest film on a tragic chapter in the nation's history.

"The Flowers of War," China's Academy Award entry for best foreign language film, centers around a mortician (Bale) who gets caught up in the 1937 Nanjing Massacre and has to save a group of school girls from the clutches of the Japanese.

On the way he becomes involved with a high-class Chinese courtesan, finding both love and personal redemption.

The film, which hits Chinese screens on Friday followed a week later by a limited release in the United States, holds little back in its graphic depiction of the events of more than eight decades ago, a story everyone in China knows well.

To a Chinese audience the almost caricature-like Japanese soldiers -- who at one point erupt in glee at finding virgins to rape -- are part-and-parcel of what they are taught in school about an event which continues to poison Sino-Japan relations.

But the movie is also heavy on the nationalism and saturated with the patriotic pride typical of how the Chinese movie industry views such emotive parts of the nation's history.

Bale, though, said he though it unfair to view it as a propaganda film.

"It's a historical piece. I certainly never viewed it as that myself. I think that would be a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. If anybody had that response I don't think they're looking closely enough at the movie," he told reporters.   Continued...