The King of Masks (1999)
This tender Chinese tale of an aged street performer who begins teaching a young child is filled with warm humanity but not imbued with undue sentiment. It is set about seventy years in the past and centers on elderly Wang Bian Lian, who travels the street performing with his pet monkey. Just looking at him it would be hard to tell that he is a master of the rapid changing face masks technique that characterizes Sichuan opera. He came to the streets thirty years before, after his wife abandoned him, and now he seeks to pass on his technique to a young boy. Liang, a well-known actor specializing in female roles wants to learn the skill, but Wang politely refuses to teach him. Wang finally gets his candidate when he buys "Doggie," a young child from a starving family. Doggie's presence adds renewed zest to Wang's life. One day the child falls ill and Wang sells one of his few priceless heirlooms to save him. This leads him to learn that Doggie is not a 'he' at all. Wang still cares, but he is heartbroken for only a boy can learn the face-changing skill. Doggie begs him to let her stay and to teach her to be an acrobat. He agrees to this and continues looking for a boy. One day, Doggie accidentally burns up Wang's boat. Horrified, she flees into the city only to secretly return later with a baby that she had rescued from kidnappers. Wang, not knowing who bestowed the gift of the child, is delighted. Unfortuantely the child's wealthy parents learn that he has it. Wang is arrested and sentenced to death. Fortunately, Doggie is determined to save him. … More
as Bian Lian Wang
as Liang Sao Lang
as Tien Che
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Critic Reviews for The King of Masks
This charming, '30s-set fable offers richer rewards than a jolt of adrenaline.
Reveals the desperate lengths a resilient little girl will go to find a permanent home.
The story centers around an elderly street performer who is a fast changer of silk masks.
starts out strong and enduring, but squanders its tender sincerity on dramatics.
Both a charming film and a contemporary allegory, old-fashioned storytelling and scathing commentary.
Audience Reviews for The King of Masks
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).More
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.More
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!More
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