Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lu Chuan: Hearts Afire (City of Life and Death)

The scope, breadth and bravissimo of classic world cinema is gapingly absent from the filmic scene as we know it. A Tree of Life, Carancho, Certified Copy or Midnight in Paris become all the more precious. Chinese filmmaker Lu Chuan joins the ranks of the greats with his richly humane war epic, City of Life and Death.

Deep blacks, grays and whites form the timeless imagery of Yu Cao's gorgeously antiquated camera work, framing a series of interconnecting tales and characters involved in the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. This entire device conceptualizes the lost aesthetics of history and cinema, recalling and surpassing Spielberg's Schindler's List. Lu's eye casts our hearts forcefully but gently into the shoes of these men and women, Chinese and Japanese, torn in the machinations of battling nations.

Containing many of the most alarmingly Eisensteinian battle sequences in some time, Lu personalizes the political and aesthetizes the unthinkable, rooting us in the horrors and sympathies of mankind. His cast is sheer brilliance at shining souls of the past; Ye Liu, Wei Fan, Hideo Nakaizumi,Yuanyuan Gao and many others palpitate the fates of the formerly faceless. All aspects of the work fuse spellbindingly, forging a firm place in our hearts and minds as a formidable war picture, human drama, work of art.

Lu pays homage to his past masters, communicating the lineage which is our art form. Eisenstein, Rossellini, Ford, Fuller, and Coppola have burned themselves into his mind, and he, in turn has burned himself into our hearts.

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