IMDb > The King of Masks (1996)
Bian Lian
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The King of Masks (1996) More at IMDbPro »Bian Lian (original title)

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The King of Masks -- US Theatrical Trailer from Columbia Tristar

Overview

User Rating:
7.6/10   2,695 votes »
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Director:
Writers:
Minglun Wei (screenplay)
Wengui Chen (story)
Contact:
View company contact information for The King of Masks on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
16 April 1999 (USA) See more »
Genre:
Plot:
Wang Bianlian is an aging street performer known as the King of Mask for his mastery of Sichuan Change Art in a true story... See more » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Awards:
19 wins & 2 nominations See more »
NewsDesk:
Filmhouse, Cousins to tour childhood films
 (From ScreenDaily. 4 February 2014, 3:05 AM, PST)

User Reviews:
A Work of Warmth and Tenderness See more (54 total) »

Cast

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

Directed by
Tian-Ming Wu 
 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Wengui Chen  story
Minglun Wei  screenplay

Produced by
Mona Fong .... executive producer
Mona Fong .... producer
Titus Ho .... producer
 
Original Music by
Jiping Zhao 
 
Cinematography by
Da-Yuan Mu 
 
Art Direction by
Xujing Wu 
 
Other crew
Susan Jacobs .... publicist
François Vila .... press agent
 

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Bian Lian" - China (original title)
See more »
Runtime:
91 min | Spain:96 min
Country:
Language:
Color:
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

Goofs:
Continuity: 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 »
Movie Connections:

FAQ

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19 out of 22 people found the following review useful.
A Work of Warmth and Tenderness, 2 December 2002
Author: Howard Schumann from Vancouver, B.C.

"The world is a cold place, but we can bring warmth to it." - Master Liang

Predictable, manipulative, and emotional? Yes, but if you still have a heart that beats, you may find Wu Tianming's 1996 film, The King of Masks, to be a moving and memorable experience. Beautifully photographed in gorgeous color, the film tells the story of Wang Bianlian, a lonely old street performer with rotting teeth who lives in a houseboat on the Yangtze and is a master of the art of "face-changing". This involves putting on and taking off silk masks in the flash of a second so that the process is almost invisible to the eye. In the highly patriarchal society of the 1930s, this sort of magic could only be performed by a male; therefore, Wang, abandoned by his wife and children many years ago, must now find a boy to carry on his tradition or it will die forever.

When a famous transgender opera performer called the Living Bodhisattva, Master Liang (Zhao Zhigang) offers him a job in his acting troupe, Wang declines and decides he must find his own "grandson" to pass down his gift to. Thinking "she" is a "he", Wang goes to a slave auction and buys a sad eyed little eight-year old for $5 in a dark alley. He calls her "Doggie" (Zhou Renying) and takes his new companion to live with him and his beautiful monkey "General" (who comes close to stealing the show). When Wang accidentally discovers that Doggie is a girl, he is ready to cast her out, but having been sold seven times previously, she begs to stay.

Xu Zhu, an outstanding actor in the Beijing People's Artistic Theater, portrays Wang as a man still operating within the rules of society but one who is full of kindness and good humor. Out of compassion, the old man agrees not to teach Doggie the art of masking but allows her to stay as a servant and to learn acrobatics to perform in his act. Both social outcasts, the two form a friendship based on mutual need and longing. Cutting to scenes from a Chinese opera, Attaining Nirvana, attended by Wang and Doggie, in which a princess, upset over her father's suffering, vows to find and comfort him in the underworld. Sacrificing herself, she becomes a Bodhisattva. This mirrors the emotional pivot of the film when Doggie, now lovingly devoted to "Grandpa" (whom she must call "Boss"), is willing to sacrifice herself to help him when he is in serious trouble with the authorities. King of Masks is a work of warmth and tenderness, yet is also an indictment of the emotional harm caused by gender preference in society. Zhou (Doggie) is so real in expressing her feelings of being unloved and unworthy that her performance is truly radiant (she is an orphan who performs acrobatics in real life).

One of the most poignant moments in the film occurs when Doggie picks up a statue of a Bodhisattva and asks Wang, "you worship her, don't you?" Tianming, who returned to China in 1995 after a prolonged absence, stated: "I wanted to make this film", he said, "because I fear that society is forgetting our Chinese traditions. Those traditions emphasized the value of morality and ethics, proper manners, a sense of honor, and taking care of each other…Through this story of an old man and a child in a world full of struggle and suffering, I wanted to express the importance of love." He has succeeded far beyond his expectations and, in the process, has elevated us to a new level of understanding and compassion.

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