Today, the Toronto International Film Festival was host to twenty minutes of “The Flowers Of War,” the new film from Zhang Yimou seeking a distributor. If you’re confused, thinking that the world was finally going to get a look at “Heroes Of Nanking,” don’t worry, it’s the same movie, with Christian Bale as an American priest who helps a number of local women take shelter during the Nanking Massacre of 1937. The synopsis also suggests they “fight back,” though the original title is much more aggressive than the new, more graceful one. Both are a bit too melodramatic for our taste, and we suspect to most this will be “that Chinese movie with Batman.”
“The Flowers Of War” might see release this year, as the world premiere is in Beijing on December 13th. But it will be a marketing challenge, as the picture is 60% in the Mandarin language, and 40% in English. Christian Bale will only entice so many eyeballs: outside of the Batman films, he’s not exactly the most bankable leading man. The budget? WAN HUNDREEED MEEELION DOLLAHRS.
Yimou’s career is an interesting one, as he moved from quieter domestic dramas both historical and contemporary to hot-blooded wu xia efforts. We’re honestly still trying to figure out what this new phase of his career represents, with an ersatz “Blood Simple” remake and now a large, multi-national historical drama. Even with all this genre hopping, it hasn’t attained the crossover success of his peers. Can “The Flowers Of War” change that? Does he care? Should he care? Oh, here’s a freebie – no, he should not care.