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?

13 thoughts on “Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: The Flowers of War

  1. Not really my bag Ruth. So I have little I can add. I am sorry.

    I know our friend Dezzy will be here soon and this looks right up his street.

    I hope you have a great weekend


    1. You don’t like war films matey? Or just the heavy subject matter? Just curious. Yeah I think Dez might like this one as he’s into historical epics.

      Enjoy your weekend, too!

      1. I totally don’t get why you think the trailer is bad. I think it was rather epic, spectacular and done in a certain way which emphasizes the drama, the shocking historical event, the suffering of Chinese people under the Japanese invaders and the mess which surrounded those people.
        The only thing I didn’t like was Bale’s acting in it. It seems he is pushing it too much again, and I think that in films like these, actors should be humble and not make the film about themselves but about the tragical story.

        I posted the trailer a day before Flixy 🙂

        1. I think the film itself still might be epic but I just think the trailer is badly-cut. I think because I already know about the story I understood it more, but it didn’t really convey much of the plot for people who have no clue what it’s about. I’ll reserve my judgment about Bale’s acting until I see the actual film.

          Yeah I know lots of people already put up this trailer before I did, but I just want to clarify about who Bale’s character is as most people think he’s an actual priest.

  2. Ted S.

    I might give it a rent, depends on how many good reviews it will get once it opens in theaters. The trailer reminds me too much of Saving Private Ryan, the look and tone of it I mean.

    1. Yeah, it’s a bit ‘In the Mood for Love’ meets ‘Saving Private Ryan’… but the trailer just doesn’t seem to do this film justice. We’ll see.

  3. What?? He’s not a priest?! Then why is he wearing the attire? Ahaha this is confusing… 😀 Yea this trailer looks really amateurish in the way it is put together. Someone commented on AM, theorizing that China doesn’t really have a “trailer industry” and that audiences over there don’t really get worked up over trailers.

    1. Ahah, yeah I was baffled too that’s why I felt like researching more about the plot. So yeah I figure this trailer was made in China, though Zimou’s previous movie trailers seem to be fine, so they’re probably made in Hollywood? Anyhoo, hope the film itself is good.

  4. I dont quite know what to think of it myself. i neither liked it nor disliked it. It just made me say “eh.” haha. But you’re right…the trailer is pretty shoddy.

    Interesting to see the “changes” of the plot from the 13 flowers of nanking.

  5. Pingback: Checking Out the “Happy-Haps!” « Scarletsp1der's Blog

  6. FUNK

    Ruth, thanks for bringing this to my attention.
    I’ve been a huge fan Zhang since Hero, and I’m looking forward to this film.
    Guess It may be awhile before I see this movie, so I’ll go out and get the book and give that a read.

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