Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Take 36: The King of Masks

Tuesday: My "take" on a film.

With a couple hours free to watch whatever I wanted, I pulled out Leonard Maltin's 151 Best Movies You've Never Seen. My goal was to find a film listed in the book that would be available to me right then and there. I didn't want to go to the library or Redbox, I wanted something at my fingertips (read: still in pajamas and too lazy to get dressed).

A film from China, The King of Masks, sounded interesting and it was streaming on Amazon so it won. And, oh my goodness, I am glad. What a heartwarming, heart-tugging, film!

Set in the 1930s, Bianlian Wang (Xu Zhu) is a gifted street performer and master of "face changing" -- rapidly changing masks like magic. It's a dying art and Wang is no spring chicken. He wants to pass on the secret technique, but according to cultural tradition it must be passed on to a male heir.

Since he has no living son, Master Wang purchases a boy from the black market in hopes of training him. The youngster calls him "Grandpa" and he affectionately nicknames the child, "Doggie." The story pulls us through surprise, disappointment, hardship, sacrifice and love.

The child actor (Renying Zhou) gave such a captivating performance I found myself mesmerized and emotionally drawn into their lives. I unashamedly bawled as I watched the movie alone, and wept while watching it again later with my husband. (I will neither confirm nor deny that he, too, cried.)

Leonard Matlin wrote,
"When you can send an e-mail to someone halfway around the globe and receive an instantaneous reply, it's clear that we all live in a global village. Yet I don't think any medium is more powerful than film in fostering our understanding of different cultures and creating empathy for people we might never meet."
I agree. Rich in visuals and culture, this film continues to run through my mind, and sticks with me in a good way.

Notes on content:
  • The English subtitles (for the version I saw) included one f-word. That's a shame since the original Chinese word probably had a different meaning.
  • No sexual content, but there is partial nudity when a little girl squats to urinate (a side-shot of her bare thigh), and a small boy's genitalia is shown in a side view as he urinates.
  • No violence seen, but is implied. (A man gets beaten, but not on-screen.)

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