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Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre

director: Tun Fei Mou (alias, F.T. Mous

90 minutes (18) 1995
widescreen ratio 16:9
Tartan DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre (aka: Hei tai yang Nan Jing da tu sha) is presented as a historical document, a re-enactment of atrocities and a dissuasive message. A warning to the world to mark these events and guard that they are never repeated. Tartan, however, are in no way mistaken as to the label under which it truthfully belongs, putting the film out on its new Grindhouse label. The DVD sleeve would once have got it in bother with the VRPC, depicting, as it does, a soldier standing over a pregnant woman he has just used his bayonet on. In the film the image is more graphic as he cuts her open and impales the baby. Lifting the baby aloft on the end of his bayonet, he and other soldiers laugh as the mother grabs the bloody umbilical chord and tries to pull her dead child back towards her. It is one of the most appalling images in this or any film and I will be playing into the director's and Tartan's hands by throwing derogatory remarks at it, but I cannot help myself. It is a sickening record of despicable events all the more deplorable because Mous means to profit from the true horrors at the same time that he means to sell us on the worthiness of his endeavour. Mous is a skilled filmmaker, with some intelligent tricks up his sleeve. Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre is a well-paced exploitation film. The gore in the film is never as convincing as the violent flurries and sadistic glee with which he recreates the hell into which the Chinese city of Nanking was immersed.

The film focuses on 11 days in December 1937 during the Greater East Asia War. On 4th September, the Japanese Emperor Hirohito issued an Imperial Directive on conduct during the fighting, deliberately avoiding reference to the Japanese military having to abide by the rules of warfare as set by International Treaties. His generals give the orders that will shortly visit the nightmare upon every household in Nanking. Chiang Kai-shek had set himself a safe distance and moved the capital to Chungking the month previously, but Nanking was keft vulnerable and surrounded, taken from three directions by the opposition forces. General Tang Sung-chi was ordered to protect Nanking but that was to prove impossible. The main players on the Japanese side are introduced. Generals who make of a motive the commanding of monstrous deeds against the innocent citizenry in order to send a message that strikes terror into all China in the fantasy that China will surrender. The corporals are thought of as heroes based on the number of unarmed men and women they have beheaded. Two have 100 decapitations under their belts; a third corporal has 300. The Japanese come out of this looking very badly, and you leave with one opinion, that all Japanese are animals and murdering bastards. The Chinese are largely seen to flee or submit themselves to the execrable cruelties landed on them. One family is singled out throughout the film. They begin on a positive note, believing flyers dropped by planes that instruct them not to fight back, that in surrender they will be protected. "Our house of five generations is safe," declares the grandmother. We see the family's plight throughout, only one of them will come out of the carnival of horrors alive.

Lieutenant-General Tani Hisao declares all Nanking homes are comfort houses and all Nanking women are comfort women, protecting the fighters. "Kill those who open doors slowly! Kill those who run! Kill those who hide! Kill those with short hair! Kill those with hands in pockets! Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!" A German international observer rescues a girl by displaying a swastika on his person. He dislikes it but it works. The Generals talk of "a new Asia." They are modelling themselves on news from Germany. The International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone sets up a camp that seems to protect most of those that reach it but the bloodthirsty military cannot resist occasional incursions. Few fight back, one man pushed into a pyre returns to grab a soldier and take him back into the flames with him, all else lost to him, this, his final small victory. One girl escapes rape by kicking and felling some of the soldiers that set upon her but is stabbed several times with a sword instead. The incident is used to prop up the truth which is slipping away in the unrealistic gore show elsewhere. The stab wounds in the girl victim are very precise because they are based on a real assault and, should you dispute it, there is footage from the time, of the actual victim, in shock, the camera recording her injuries as evidence for later tribunals. The film unpleasantly backs itself up where it can with genuine footage and photographic evidence. In the most skilfully played out sequence, the execution of a monk begins with the actors assuming the positions and as the fatal shot is fired it cuts to and holds on a real photograph of the moment of death. The actors have uncannily matched the stances and expressions of the two.

The maker (F.T. Mous, who specialises in sickening dramas, is best known for Men Behind The Sun) assures us that as dreadful as what is portrayed in the film is, the true massacre was far worse and yet more footage of another victim in shock with an impossible slice taken out of the back of his neck concurs this. The film closes with a gruesome montage set to a Christmas carol. There is wordplay that holds resonance with the sick verbal chicanery of today's politicians. Leaders excuse the actions of the soldiers, as this is not a war but a conflict. In a more extreme example of slaughtering, burning and rape are termed a relaxation of the rules, but how far removed is that from the appalling acts committed in our name by our government on a ruse in Iraq. The Generals and the sword happy corporals and lieutenants are more than named and shamed. Most were found guilty in Far East and Chinese war tribunals and executed in late 1947 and early 1948. We live on the planet of the morons though, and nothing is ever learnt. Horrific history has repeated itself time and again. So too, one hopes, will international law. Perhaps this time they can improve upon it and take the emperors to the gallows with them.
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