Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: The Flowers of War

Earlier today, the international trailer to Christian Bale’s epic WWII drama was released. Set in both Mandarin and English dialog, this is China’s most expensive film ever to produce. According to THR, China’s Film Bureau has submitted it to the Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film category. Well, considering this comes from an acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou and Bale has just won an Oscar last year, this just might be a shoo-in at 2012 Oscar. The trailer itself is unlikely to win the Golden Trailer Award however, see it for yourself below:

Is this one of those cases of good movies, bad trailers? I certainly hope so. I’ve been anticipating this film for some time, I first talked about it in this spotlight post back in April (which was still titled 13 Flowers of Nanjing), but at the time, I thought he was playing an American Catholic priest called John Magee who shelters a group of prostitutes and young female students during the Japanese invasion. So of course I was baffled when I saw in the trailer that Bale’s character is making love with a Chinese woman. Is this some kind of Thorn Birds remake?? Turns out Bale’s character is NOT a priest.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find any site that has any info/excerpt of Yan Geling’s historical novel 13 Flowers of Nanjing which is supposed to be the novel this film is based on or inspired by. But after some digging, I found this L.A. Times blog article reporting about this film being shopped around at TIFF this past September. As the trailer didn’t really give us any coherent plot as to what the film is about, I find this summary to be pretty helpful. If you prefer not to know too much about it though, you can skip the last 3 paragraph.

Bale plays John Haufman, a salty mortician who apparently has come to town to bury the priest of a cathedral in Nanking. The cathedral also has a school for girls, and with war waging all around and the priest dead, John dons the priests’ vestments and works out a temporary reprieve from the rampaging Japanese soldiers.

Things get complicated when a group of a dozen or so prostitutes from the city’s red-light district show up at the cathedral, demanding shelter. Bale is more than happy with the arrival of the beautiful, exotic women, who set up camp in the cellar of the church. But the chaste schoolgirls are discomfited by their arrival, and conflict bubbles up.

That’s not John’s biggest problem, though. Soon enough the Japanese are back with an invitation to a “ceremony” to mark the complete occupation of Nanking. The implication is that the occupiers want the schoolgirls to attend the event as sexual playthings for the soldiers.

But the prostitutes decide, in an act of selflessness that belies long-held stereotypes about those in their line of work, that they will take the place of the schoolgirls. John (perhaps using his mortician skills, but it’s not entirely clear) helps disguise them with plain outfits and prim hairdos.

John falls in love with one of the women, even as he sees her and her compatriots off to their apparent demise. Meanwhile, he manages to spirit the schoolgirls out of the city.

My pal Castor posted this trailer up on his blog also, and I agree that this trailer is just so badly put-together. It’s kind of a mess if you ask me. If I hadn’t already been interested in the subject matter, I would probably dismiss it altogether. I guess because it’s a foreign-made trailer, it doesn’t adhere to the MPAA rating as I thought it’s pretty violent for a trailer, and for a film made by such an artistic director (watching The House of Flying Daggers was like seeing a painting came to life), the trailer doesn’t look visually striking.

Having said that, I’m still anticipating this film. I love films that speak about redemption and the subject matter alone is kind of personal as I came from a country that was occupied by the Japanese for 3.5 years. Even in that short amount of time, my people suffered greatly under the cruelty of the Japanese military. So no doubt this film will be quite heartbreaking to watch, but definitely worth seeing.

Oh I also found a different poster that’s a teeeeeeny bit better than the one released previously. At least Bale didn’t have that constipated look on his face, though the floating-head syndrome is there, front and center. It’s cute that they put his full name below it, too 😀

Though this film will be released in China in December, there’s no U.S. distributor yet for it. Perhaps the Oscar submission will spur studio buyers to somehow try to fit this into the already crowded holiday schedule. Hopefully the film itself will be much, much better than this trailer.

What are your thoughts about this trailer/film in general?

Happy Birthday Viggo Mortensen! You’ll always be Aragorn to me.

The über talented Viggo Mortensen turns 53 today. Wow, he certainly doesn’t look like he’s hit the big 5-0!

The Danish-American actor had quite a worldly upbringing as his family traveled quite a bit and he spent several years living in Venezuela, Argentina and Denmark, hence his multilingual ability. According to his Wiki page, he speaks fluent English, Danish and Spanish; he is also conversational in French and Italian, and understands Norwegian and Swedish. OH MY! As if that weren’t impressive enough, he’s also an accomplished painter, poet, photographer, as well as a jazz musician, he apparently has released several albums. Seriously, I don’t know where he even found time for acting as he also runs a publishing company, Perceval Press, which publish the works of little-known artists and authors.

Some people really do have it all. Viggo is obviously VERY easy on the eyes with that high cheekbones cut like glass and those soulful eyes… but he’s also meticulous about his craft, and that includes acting. He’s been nominated for Oscar, Golden Globe and Bafta for his role in Eastern Promises, as well as other kudos for his performance in The Road and of course The Lord of the Rings.

I have to admit that post LOTR, his movies have been too dark/violent/depressing though I still might give History of Violence and The Road a watch at some point. I was really curious to see Eastern Promises but after reading some reviews and seeing a couple of clips, I don’t think I could handle it. I’m curious about A Dangerous Method however, where Viggo is almost unrecognizable as Sigmund Freud!

He’s played a variety of roles in his film career, but I feel like he hasn’t played a villain before. Yes he’s played some flawed antiheroes but I thought it’d be interesting to see him as a full-on bad guy. Hence I cast him in my third Untitled Sci-Fi Pitch as not only a quintessential villain but a non-human one! Yep, I cast him as an alien being called Damien, who’s the Commander in Chief of a planet called Bhumi. I just think his charisma and quiet grace would lend to an intriguing and complex villain who’s ruthless ambition could be very, very dangerous. If you haven’t read it already, click on the link and let me know what you think 🙂

Now, as the title of my post suggest, Viggo will always be Aragorn to me. Every time I saw LOTR, I truly can’t imagine the-originally-cast Stuart Townsend in the role of a gritty but compassionate leader like Aragorn. Even amongst the fantastic cast that Peter Jackson has assembled, Viggo’s performance still stands out and fully deserving its ‘icon’ status (he received the EMPIRE magazine Icon Award as Aragorn, presented by Boromir himself, er I meant Sean Bean).

So in honor of his birthday today, I thought I’d post some of my favorite Aragorn scenes… a mix of his tough warrior side as well as the tender, romantic side as Arwen’s devoted lover.

“Become who you are born to be.”

Aragorn’s Battle Speech – Extended Scene

Aragorn with Arwen

I thought I’d include this behind-the-scene clip of how Viggo got cast in LOTR as they’ve started filming. I’ve heard it several time over but I’m still flabbergasted by the story that he almost turned it down!! I’m forever thankful to his son Henry for compelling his dad to take the role.

Behind the Scene – Casting Aragorn

Well folks, why don’t you join me in my birthday tribute to Viggo by telling me your favorite Viggo Mortensen role… and of course you can share your thoughts about Aragorn as well.