Up 3,205 this week

The Puppetmaster (1993)
"Xi meng ren sheng" (original title)

Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.4/10 from 938 users  
Reviews: 6 user | 9 critic

In the first half of this century, young Li Tienlu joines a travelling puppet theatre and subsequently makes a career as one of Taiwan's leading puppeteers. During World War II the Japanese... See full summary »



, (story), 1 more credit »
0Check in

Editors' Spotlight

Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street

Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street Debut's Today!

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 30 titles
created 05 Jul 2011
a list of 39 titles
created 07 Jul 2011
a list of 26 titles
created 12 Aug 2013
a list of 35 titles
created 11 months ago
a list of 45 titles
created 4 months ago

Related Items

Connect with IMDb

Share this Rating

Title: The Puppetmaster (1993)

The Puppetmaster (1993) on IMDb 7.4/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of The Puppetmaster.
7 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Stars: Kenny Bee, Anthony Chan, Fei Fei Feng
Puppetmaster (Video 1989)
Fantasy | Horror | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 X  

Neil Gallagher found the secret to Toulon's puppets who come to life and then killed himself. Alex and his psychic friends come to investigate and are stalked by Toulon's puppets who have a... See full summary »

Director: David Schmoeller
Stars: Paul Le Mat, William Hickey, Irene Miracle
The River (1997)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

In Taiwan, Xiao-kang, a young man in his early 20s, lives with his parents in near silence. He is plagued by severe neck pain. His father is bedeviled by water first leaking into his ... See full summary »

Director: Ming-liang Tsai
Stars: Tien Miao, Kang-sheng Lee, Yi-Ching Lu
Horror | Sci-Fi | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

The Earth is invaded by alien "slugs" that ride on people's backs and control their minds.

Director: Stuart Orme
Stars: Donald Sutherland, Eric Thal, Julie Warner
Drama | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

On a dark, wet night a historic and regal Chinese cinema sees its final film. Together with a small handful of souls they bid "Goodbye, Dragon Inn."

Director: Ming-liang Tsai
Stars: Kang-sheng Lee, Shiang-chyi Chen, Kiyonobu Mitamura
The Blue Kite (1993)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

On Dry Well Lane in Beijing in 1953, Chen Shujuan and Lin Shaolong marry. A year later their son, nicknamed Tietou (Iron Head), is born. The Party is everywhere: Mao's photograph, ... See full summary »

Director: Zhuangzhuang Tian
Stars: Tian Yi, Wenyao Zhang, Xiaoman Chen
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A beautiful, historical film based upon the complex lives of four brothers.

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Stars: Tony Chiu Wai Leung, Shufen Xin, Sung Young Chen
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Stars: Kenny Bee, Anthony Chan, Ping-Yu Chang
Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Stars: Qi Shu, Chen Chang, Satoshi Tsumabuki
Crime | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
Director: Edward Yang
Stars: Chen Chang, Lisa Yang, Kuo-Chu Chang
10+10 (2011)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
Directors: Sylvia Chang, Tso-chi Chang, and 18 more credits »
Stars: Chia-Jui Kou, Ming-shiou Tsai, Chi-Wen Hsieh
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

The semi-autobiographical film on director Hou Hsiao-Hsien's childhood and adolescence, when he was growing up in Taiwan, living through the deaths of his father, mother and grandmother.

Directors: Hsiao-Hsien Hou, Jia-hua Lao, and 2 more credits »
Stars: Chia-bao Chang, Neng Chang, Chih-chen Chen


Complete credited cast:
Tianlu Li ...
Giong Lim ...
Li Tianlu (young) (as Chung Lin)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ming Hwa Bai ...
Ong Hsiu (grandmother)
Kuei-Chung Cheng ...
Li Tien Lu adolescent
Chien-ru Huang
Tung-Hsiu Kao
Hei Li
Wenchang Li
Hung Liou ...
Li Hei (grandfather)
Wen-pin Liu
I. Toshiro
Chen-Nan Tsai ...
Komeng Dang (father)
Yi-Hua Tsai
Juwei Tzuo
Li-Yin Yang ...
Lai Hwat (stepmother)


In the first half of this century, young Li Tienlu joines a travelling puppet theatre and subsequently makes a career as one of Taiwan's leading puppeteers. During World War II the Japanese rulers of Taiwan use the traditional Chinese puppet theatre for their war propaganda. Only after the war street theatres start playing again. Written by Otto Oberhauser <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Biography | Drama | War





| |

Release Date:

8 December 1993 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The Puppetmaster  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente)

Sound Mix:


See  »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Profoundly Boring
8 October 2001 | by (Saint Paul, MN) – See all my reviews

Jeeze, whoever decided, out of the blue, to declare Hou Hsiao-hsien a master filmmaker was really pushing it. Those who chose to believe that opinion are even more guilty. I don't want to declare that he's untalented. I did truly like Dust in the Wind and City of Sadness, no matter how flawed I found them to be. The Puppetmaster is an enormous step in the wrong direction, more like the atrocious A Time to Live, a Time to Die than the two I actually tolerated. Hou's just not especially talented. People praise him to high heaven, claiming that his style is incredibly unique. Let me diagram his directorial technique: 1. Static long shots with few movements and few close ups. 2. His shots are often framed by doorways and the like. 3. Many landscape shots. 4. Characters in a scene often remain out of sight for a long time at the beginning of a scene, which confounds the audience when a visible character is talking to or interacting with them. 5. Loose narrative structure. 6. The subject of his films is most often Taiwanese history, often radiating from the tumultuous period of the WWII era. That's it. There is not one thing on this list that hasn't been done before and much better, whether Asian or Western (well, maybe the thing about Taiwanese history, but plenty of great filmmakers have illuminated their own country's history). The combination of several of these factors (and no more) is a recipe for insomnia medication. His cinema is about as limiting as cinema can get, reminscent of pre-Griffith cinema, where filmmakers never thought to move their camera or give a close-up of anything. The effects are all de-dramatizing, which is extraordinarily pointless. As Pauline Kael once said, if films aren't supposed to be entertaining, then what are they supposed to be? Torture? I know what Hou's answer would be.

Sorry. I went a bit too far with that last paragraph. The Puppetmaster does have its great moments, mostly coming in two forms: theatrical performances (puppet plays and opera) and one-on-one interviews with the Puppetmaster himself, Li Tien-lu, where he tells long and rambling stories - long and rambling, but very interesting and entertaining - about his life. The rest of the film is made up of accounts of the events he's talking about acted out on screen. Some are good, some are bad, but none of them are inherently interesting. Since these episodes are only tenuously connected to the past and the future, there is absolutely no weight to these scenes. This is particularly pathetic, because the real Li Tien-lu was the best part of both Dust in the Wind and City of Sadness. I would have been infinitely more contented to just watch the interviews without the sketches, because Li is a beautiful human being (not to mention a marvelous actor) whose face, body movements, and tone of voice communicate infinitely more than the motionless actors and actresses who are insultingly acting out his life experiences.

And people who would like to deify this director and, consequently, want to crucify me, check out my other tastes: if you want to jump to the conclusion that I'm a brainless American who needs his movies fast, chew on a few of my favorite films that 99% of the population would find as slow as molasses: 2001, anything by Andrei Tarkovsky, anything by Antonioni, most things by Bergman, My Dinner with Andre, Dreyer's sound films (Ordet, Day of Wrath, and Gertrud), Rhapsody in August, The Decalogue, and The Dreamlife of Angels, for starters. How about those who would criticize me for not liking loose narratives? Godard is one of my very favorite filmmakers. And seeing that The Puppetmaster was supposedly improvised, at least in the editing room, I happen to love Pierrot le fou, Godard's film where he, Jean-Paul Belmondo, and Anna Karina grabbed a camera and went out on the road, improvising an entire film (as rumor has it). And if this is all Hou could come up with if he came into this film not having an idea what he was going to make, Fellini did the same thing with 8 1/2, and that is one of the ten best films ever made, in my opinion. Now how come I don't love this master's films? The answer is simple, methinks: he's no master.

I have very stubbornly stuck with a different Hou film every Friday for a month now, and he has revealed little or nothing to me about the human condition or the nature of filmmaking. Seeing that the showings are free, I'm not going to skip them. However, I can breathe a huge sigh of relief that there is a two week break in this particular series. 5/10 for The Puppetmaster.

12 of 56 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Discuss The Puppetmaster (1993) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: