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Flowers of War is a harrowing drama
Showtime with Sasha
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What part did Christian Bale play just before returning to the cape and cowl in “The Dark Knight Rises?”

“Flowers of War,” now on home video, is a Chinese drama about the Japanese occupation of Nanjing in 1937. Bale plays John Miller, an American mortician traveling through the battlefield to reach a church and bury the priest who has died there. Despite the atrocities happening around him, Miller hopes to do his job, get paid and move along.

Instead, he becomes the only hope of survival for those hiding inside the church. These are about a dozen convent schoolgirls; George (Tianyuan Huang), the deceased priest’s young protégée; and about a dozen prostitutes.

“Flowers of War,” reportedly the most expensive Chinese film ever made, features stunning visuals. However, critics called the film melodramatic, attacked the Chinese director for being anti-Japanese and argued there should not have been an American character at all, that a Chinese tale should be told through Chinese eyes.

Seems to me they are first calling director Zhang Yimou too Chinese and then not Chinese enough. Sheesh — give the guy a break. This is pretty much Yimou’s first “serious” historical drama after making action films like “Hero” and “Curse of the Golden Flower.” Given his previous titles, I’d say it’s all right he’s little melodramatic; it’s just his nature.

They say light shines more brightly in darkness, and that line adequately sums up this story. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say some characters selflessly decide to give their lives for others. This made the movie one I’m not likely to forget.

Bale is right on target, but the character of George still haunts me — not necessarily in a bad way.

If you don’t mind some subtitles, check out “Flowers of War,” but be warned: This film’s period was called the Rape of Nanjing for good reason.

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