King of Masks

The King of Masks

Director: Wu Tianming, Zhu Xu, Zhou Ren-ying, Chu Yuk

Cast: Wu Tianming, Zhu Xu, Zhou Ren-ying, Chu Yuk

     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
The King of Masks is a colorful fable that effectively re-creates two old-world Chinese ideals, only one of which has any enduring social value: the transcendent magic of Chinese theater and street performance, and the lingering patrilineal abhorrence of female children and women in general. This latter takes dominant position in director Wu Tianming's visually dynamic film, forcing the poor adopted youth (Zhou Ren-ying) to continually prove her worthiness to an otherwise loving father figure (Zhu Xu) determined to demonstrate his disdain at every turn. Thus, the film is a curious mix of warmth and sadness, and Western viewers who are less familiar with Chinese culture will have a hard time not condemning the talented street performer for his heartless behavior. A message of acceptance eventually shines through, but viewers must wade through a lot of neglect before then, as well as some pretty dire scenes. The heartfelt performances and beautiful cinematography make The King of Masks well worthwhile. But once exposed to the practices of such a male-dominant nation, albeit more than 70 years in the past, it's hard not to ponder what passes for progress in that society.

Product Details

Release Date:
04/14/2015
UPC:
0720229916486
Original Release:
1996
Rating:
NR
Source:
First Run Features
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Time:
1:42:00
Sales rank:
14,407

Cast & Crew

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The King of Masks
1. Chapter 1 [7:46]
2. Chapter 2 [12:13]
3. Chapter 3 [7:42]
4. Chapter 4 [8:18]
5. Chapter 5 [9:05]
6. Chapter 6 [7:52]
7. Chapter 7 [11:18]
8. Chapter 8 [8:00]
9. Chapter 9 [10:19]
10. Chapter 10 [7:03]
11. Chapter 11 [9:48]
12. Chapter 12 [4:51]

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