The King Of Masks

  • 1996
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

Audiences unfamiliar with the intense sentimentality often found in Chinese melodramas may find veteran director Wu Tian Ming's newest effort a bit mawkish. But this handsome film, cautiously set in pre-Revolutionary China, addresses a very serious subject -- the repression of women in Chinese culture -- with a relatively dry-eye. Bian Lian Wang (Zhu Xu)...read more

Where to Watch

Available to Stream

Reviewed by Ken Fox
Rating:

Audiences unfamiliar with the intense sentimentality often found in Chinese melodramas may find veteran director Wu Tian Ming's newest effort a bit mawkish. But this handsome film, cautiously set in pre-Revolutionary China, addresses a very serious subject -- the

repression of women in Chinese culture -- with a relatively dry-eye. Bian Lian Wang (Zhu Xu) is an traveling prestidigitator known throughout the Sichuan province as the King of Masks: In the snap of a paper fan or a wave of his hand, Wang switches one extravagantly painted mask for another,

amazing his audiences and winning the admiration of Master Liang (Zhao Zhigang), the legendary female impersonator and opera star. But Wang, a widower whose only son died years earlier, has no one to whom he can pass along the secrets of his art. So at the urging of Master Liang, he goes in search

of a young boy to raise. At a clandestine child-market where parents, devastated by poverty and natural disasters, try to sell their sons for a few dollars (the daughters are gladly given away), Wang buys a precocious three-year old he nicknames Little Doggie (Zhou Ren-ying). It isn't until the

child has grown on him that the proud new father realizes he's been duped: Doggie is actually a little girl to whom the secrets of the King of Masks are strictly forbidden. Wu doesn't just tug at the heartstrings, he yanks on them, and it's hard not to feel resentful. But even with Zhao Jiping's

weepy score and countless shots of Zhou's tear-filled eyes, this is an unusually enjoyable film that does much to spotlight the ongoing predicament of China's women. And it's quite something to look at: Wu (a member of the so-called Fourth Generation of Chinese filmmakers) and cinematographer Mu

Dayuan fill each carefully composed frame with exquisite color, and the scenes involving Master Liang and his opera troupe are a thrill to watch. (In Mandarin, with English subtitles.)

Cast & Details See all »

  • Released: 1996
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Audiences unfamiliar with the intense sentimentality often found in Chinese melodramas may find veteran director Wu Tian Ming's newest effort a bit mawkish. But this handsome film, cautiously set in pre-Revolutionary China, addresses a very serious subject… (more)

Show More »

Trending TonightSee all »