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The King of Masks (1996)
"Bian Lian" (original title)

 -  Drama | Family  -  16 April 1999 (USA)
7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 2,635 users  
Reviews: 54 user | 28 critic

Wang Bianlian is an aging street performer known as the King of Mask for his mastery of Sichuan Change Art in a true story. His wife left him with and infant son over 30 years ago. The son ... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Zhigang Zhang ...
Sulan, Luo
Zhigang Zhao ...
Liang Sao Lang
Renying Zhou ...
Gou Wa ("Doggie")
Xu Zhu ...
Bianlian Wang
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Storyline

Wang Bianlian is an aging street performer known as the King of Mask for his mastery of Sichuan Change Art in a true story. His wife left him with and infant son over 30 years ago. The son died from illness at age 10. This left Wang a melancholy loner aching for a male descendent to learn his rare and dying art. A famous master performer of the Sichuan Opera offers to bring him into his act, thus giving Wang fame and possible fortune, but Wang opts for staying the simple street performer. Then, one night after a performance he is sold a young boy by a slave trader posing as the boy's parent. "Grandpa" finds new joy in life as he plans to teach "Doggie" (an affectionate term often used for young children in China) his art. All is well until Doggie is found out to really be a girl. Written by Steve Uptegraft <bluzman@voyager.net>

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Drama | Family

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Release Date:

16 April 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El rey de las máscaras  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$394,272 (USA) (11 June 1999)

Gross:

$1,104,619 (USA) (25 February 2000)
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1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Goofs

When Wang (The Mask King) is performing for the soldiers who insist on having his secret, his missing front tooth is there in one scene, then gone in the next. See more »

Connections

Featured in Siskel & Ebert: Episode dated 3 July 1999 (1999) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Beautiful Film
22 March 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is a beautiful, rich, and very well-executed film with a rich and meaningful story. Basically, it tells how an old master story teller needs to find a (male) heir to carry on his craft, but ends up not getting what he expected in his very male-dominated world. The characters must then deal with their situation and the old master must grapple with the conflict between his desire for a companion and heir and his and society's traditional notions.

The story is fun, emotional, and complex. The exploration of the characters, their lives, and emotions, is rich and compelling the character development is strong while the characters are complex and not one dimensional at all. The film expertly conveys the old man's emotions and his desire to find an heir, and compellingly shows how he and the kid handle the situation. There is also humour, sometimes quite subtle, at appropriate points. The film also examines the good and bad of traditional Chinese culture, creating further interest and depth to the film.

The directing, acting, and scenery are all outstanding. Added to the other strengths, this creates rich and convincing visual images and compelling, real characters. As a result, the film evokes strong empathy for, and feelings about, the characters.

Some have claimed that the ending weakens the film, but I do not necessarily agree. Perhaps it could have been stronger with a different ending, but any improvement in the overall film would have been rather small.


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