Bian Lian (The King of Masks) Reviews

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flixsterman flixsterman
Super Reviewer
January 18, 2009
An insightful study in Asian culture and the sometimes tragic consequences of tradition. Slightly sappy but a genuine pleasure to watch. This one will tug at your heartstrings (hankies mandatory).
Lanning :
Super Reviewer
April 25, 2007
Not a bad story, but not what I'd hoped to see. If they'd spent more time exploring the artistry of the mask quick-change and the King teaching that to "Doggie," I think the film would be stronger for it. The art form is fascinating and pure magic.
Anthony V
Super Reviewer
June 10, 2008
A well directed moving story.
Jossepi Jossepi
Super Reviewer
½ January 14, 2008
Tear-jerking. One of the most recommanded film by me. Many foreign elements unknown to the Occidental world such as tradition to pass down family's secret skill unto sons, the working force of the society, and one's own sons only. Nonetheless, the emotion and the art is much appreciated and louder than color. A must watch!
RicC RicC ½ November 18, 2009
One of those sentimental American-like, soapish, melodramatic foreign films. Shows the stupidity of sexism in the Chinese culture. Watchable, but extremely irritating score.
luther r June 9, 2009
good drama nice to watch with kids and family. good story line and if u dont mind read subtilles .nice moral to story about adoption
Zachary L ½ March 14, 2009
One of the best Chinese movies I have ever seen. You can find in it a shadow of many Asian movies from Farewell My Concubine to Fire to Slumdog Millionaire.
Nicholas S January 13, 2009
This story will pull at your heart strings as an early-1900's Chinese man gets over his society's sexism and repression of little girls.
vanillaricema vanillaricema ½ October 24, 2007
really great foreign film, it was all in chinese, but that did not stop it from being a spectacular movie, get it off of netflix and see for your self
Lisbeth W ½ February 7, 2007
astonishing film that peeks into the world of a culture soon to be dominated by maoists and struggle.. beautiful craftsmanship, amazing illusion, great story about class, gender, and art.
Dave J Dave J ½ August 15, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2010

(1999) The King of Masks
(In Mandarin with English subtitles)

Film takes a particular theme or problem about communism China and creates a beautiful story out of it, centering on an uneasy relationship between an old man whose known as the "The King of Masks" and his relationship with a little girl thought to be a little boy who was really a little girl looking like a boy, during which females in China were labelled to be as 'less inferior' to males motivating mothers wanting their newborns to be boys than girls! And because of this cultural notion, the old man cannot accept his old 'tradition' to be passed to a girl!

What's fascinating is the fact that the film showcases about how some impoverished people used to live or still live without critizing about it's communist rules but settling with what they have, and of course the acceptance of others despite being less inferior! As well, the film, also depicts how some old traditions can become non- existent, making one to wonder how many different kinds of traditions their used to be!

But because I've already seen my share of Chinese films that have similar themes to this one, I thought some scenes was rather predictable with the only difference that this was rather delicate and satisfying!

3.5 out of 4
Julie D February 18, 2012
The movie feels much older than it is, but it's well done. You'll love the child actor who plays "Doggie" and will get a fascinating glimpse of a China that once was (and maybe still is, in certain parts).
Paul Celano Paul Celano December 1, 2009
This movie starts off a little slow, but that is ok. The rest really makes up for it. The cast was ok. The main old man and the little girl were great though. This movie has a touching message and on top of that a lot of lessons. It shows that women can be just as good as men in that time period. The little girl proves it. That was because it was during a time when women meant nothing in this country. Another side hero was the man that dresses like a woman. All the women want his children and all the men wish they were him. So the men fight against woman rights, yet they want to be like a man dressed as one. Interesting huh? But the old man and the girl is what really has a heart to heart story. Great film.
dfwforeignbuff dfwforeignbuff December 16, 2008
excellent movie. highest rating five stars. perfect in every respect. This movie reminds me in every way how much I hate most American commercial movies. The film is about a street performer named Wang who practices the change-mask opera art of bian lian as "The King of Masks". Seeking to pass his art to a grandson, Wang buys what he believes to be an orphan boy at an illegal child market, but quickly learns his new disciple is in fact a girl. As tradition dictates that he cannot pass his art onto a girl, he tries to abandon her, but she stubbornly stays with him. While looking at his masks, she accidentally sets his humble residence on fire. Out of guilt, she runs away. When Wang is falsely accused of kidnapping a rich family's child, he is thrown in jail. His former disciple goes to one of his friends, a famous performer in the local opera, threatening to kill herself if he or any of his guests, including a local military leader, are unable to help Wang. The King is eventually freed, and finally agrees to teach her the art of bian lian. I enjoyed the glimpse of the china of the past of which Americans never get to view. This seems a very authentic movie.! I agree with Ebert: "Like so many recent Chinese films, it benefits enormously from the beauty of the setting, the costumes and the customs. It's poignant to realize that a society of such beauty existed so recently. The river life of Wang and Doggie may be at the poverty level, but it has a quality that no modern rich man can afford" This film is first rate cinema storytelling. It is fantastic to see the characters grow together--even if she is not a boy!! excellent movie. highest rating five stars. One small ps type item. The sound kept cutting out on one channel of my stereo on this DVD periodically. Seems like its an internal audio problem on the DVD. Maybe my copy only?
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