But since itís awfully hard to put a smiley on such an atrocity, Zhang Yimouís The Flowers of War focuses only on a small group of women, guarded by an American named John Miller (Christian Bale), an alcoholic mortician in town on business. Under the watch of Miller, a dozen schoolgirls, prostitutes and a young orphan named George (Huang Tianyuan) seek refuge in an abandoned cathedral. Praise the Lord for the White Man!
The film, like Miller, has good intentions. Many sequences are well-directed by Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers) and it has great photography by Zhao Xiaoding (Oscar-nominated for his work on House of Flying Daggers), because the two men are some of the finest Chinese filmmakers today. Shooting on location adds a much-needed layer of authenticity, which makes the gunfire and blood that more real and brutal--when itís not overly dramatic through Woo-like slow-motion and Kill Bill-esque spraying.
Itís clear Zhang Yimou feels the need to tell the story to a wide audience. But he doesnít seem to want to explore it without the help of a Western star. The Flowers of War is one of many movies where an international issue is simplified and looked at without any true risk. Itís a disappointing move from Zhang Yimou, who should have more invested in the story besides a 142-minute runtime.
Meeting Christian Bale (16:20): This piece, as expected, is devoted to Bale. Thereís a lot of great behind-the-scenes footage of Bale, as well as thoughts on working on the film and in a bilingual environment.
The Newborn Stars (22:16): Here, the young and inexperienced cast is put under the spotlight to discuss acting in their first movie.
Hard Time During War (20:07): This featurette looks at the challenges of filming of The Flowers of Warís action/battle sequences.
Perfection of Light and Color (13:55): This featurette takes time to look at the stained glass window set piece and the frigid weather the crew encountered during production.