Projections - Movie Reviews

The King of Masks

The King of Masks is a surprisingly heartwarming tale of an old man genuinely unscrooged by the love of an appealing child.  Chinese director Wu Tianming, known as one of the creators of contemporary Chinese film, has come back to his homeland after a sabbatical, in a feature that centers on a popular 30s Sichuan street performer who has the gift of being able to switch masks in a split second.  With reverence from China's spoiled lead actor, the humble entertainer is attracted to a kid (Zhou Renying), and Wang (Zhu Xu) fears that he won't be able to pass down his superior skills, as he isn't a father.

As Wang adopts "Doggie" on the black market, he comes to learn that he is a she and is the desperate one, a real life acrobatic student at age three, she is better, even more slight of hand and body than most boys.

From the view of a child's meager existence, there's some harsh inequalities and heartbreak amid Wu Tiamming's dazzling look at Chinese ceremonies, even the neon inflections, among other colors in the displays of fireworks and opera.  Still, there is some poignancy, even in Wang's sorrow as a child trying to become loved, as the underlying magic in a unique film that has more emotional than physical dexterity.

The King of Masks

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