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King of Masks [DVD] [1999] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

Zhigang Zhang , Zhigang Zhao , Tian-Ming Wu    DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Region 1 encoding (requires a North American or multi-region DVD player and NTSC compatible TV. More about DVD formats.)

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Product details

  • Actors: Zhigang Zhang, Zhigang Zhao, Renying Zhou, Xu Zhu
  • Directors: Tian-Ming Wu
  • Writers: Minglun Wei, Wengui Chen
  • Producers: Mona Fong, Titus Ho
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Colour, DVD-Video, Full Screen, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: 7 Mar 2000
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0767847377
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 180,706 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent film unavailable in the uk. 5 Nov 2009
While staying with relations in Seattle, this Chinese film was rented out by my auntie. The story is of an old man who is a street performer who changes masks at incredible speed. He decides that he needs to have an heir, which tradition means has to be a boy. Needless to say he shortly finds out he has been tricked and has bought a little girl at the slave market. I found the performances from both the old man and the child to be incredible and the story was excellent and heart warming. I was very surprised that there are no other listings for this child actor who was apparently sent away by her family at the age of the 3 to work as an acrobat. She would surely have been the next child star. If you don't mind foreign language movies with subtitles and can play region 1 dvd's, I would strongly recommend either viewing or purchasing this fine movie.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beg, steal or borrow this film! 16 Dec 2005
This film is a real gem. It remembered me of the book SANS FAMILLE by Hector Malot. Only this time the scene is set in China.
I can surely recommend this movie.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masks over formula 16 Mar 2010
A slow-moving but heartfelt and colorful film which challenges the old Chinese preference for boy heirs over girls. The message-film formula isn't quite hidden -- and it aims directly for the tear ducts. But the plot, the glimpse of an exotic culture and of the street performer life kept me fascinated. But most of all, credit goes to Zhu Xu (playing the old face-changer) and young Zhou Ren-Ying (a genuine gymnast as can be quickly discerned -- and who seems to have disappeared from the public eye since this film) as the street performers. They strike the right tone and have a warm chemistry which makes the plot work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars one of my favorite films ever 8 Aug 2010
This film is so uplifting, with lots of bittersweet twists, as usual in a Chinese film. Wonderful relationship between old man and child, lots of modern cultural references. Don't forget to sit with the kleenex box next to you!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  94 reviews
114 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty and charming but watch out for the sting! 13 May 2001
By Chris Fung - Published on
This is a wonderfully intelligent and heart-warming work. I thoroughly thoroughly recommend it. Set in a beautifully-evoked Sichuan province (watch for guest appearances by the Giant Buddha of Emei Shan) in China during the 1930s, Wu Tianming’s beautifully delineated movie tells the story of Wang Bianlian, played by the veteran Xu Zhu, an aging street performer who buys a young boy, Gou-er (translated as “Doggie” in the subtitles). Gou-er (luminously portrayed by an absolutely fabulous Zhou Renying) is to be Old Wang's heir as the old man seeks to pass on his family secrets as a master of “changing face” theater.
This situation needs a little explaining for modern western audiences. Many times in Chinese history there were awful famines or economic depressions where families faced starvation and destitution. This was particularly true in the late Republican period when civil war added yet another level of problems for ordinary Chinese people. In these circumstances, desperate families sometimes resorted to selling some or all of their children to wealthy families. Often these children would be brought up as virtual slaves, especially if they were girls.
Gou-er is a pet name. Chinese children were often given these names instead of real ones until they were old enough to be fairly assured of living to be adults. This practice stemmed from the folk belief that the lurking demons that populated the Chinese landscape (particularly in natural areas such as rivers, woods and mountains) would be fooled into thinking that the child was worthless if their family referred to them as “Stinky” or “Idiot” –or “Little Dog”, and so would not attempt to steal the child or kill it.
Old Wang needs a boy because according to Confucian tradition, he cannot pass the knowledge on to a girl since daughters or grand daughters were not considered to be permanent members of one’s family in traditional Chinese society. Women were brought up to be married out to other families. The men were the ones who stayed within the family and maintained the family resources. Usually this meant land for peasants, but for the rich it meant wealth and for performers like Old Wang, it meant the secrets of the trade. For this reason, I must take issue with Laura Mirsky's editorial review which infers that the famous cross-dressing opera star Luo Sulan (ably played by Zhang Zhigang) was unsuitable as an heir because he portrayed women on stage.
While it is true that Chinese society is conventionally very homophobic, and Luo Sulan is certainly portrayed as a rather effeminate young man, the larger obstacle (and this is important since it is another example of Confucian tradition at work) was that Luo was not a member of Old Wang’s family. “Changing face” was a family tradition and could not be handed on to anyone who was an outsider. Luo’s status as a man who plays women on stage would not have been an issue in and of itself since this was the norm in Chinese opera of the time. As in Shakespearean England, women were not allowed to perform as actors so all the female roles were played by men (see also the wonderful Chen Kaige movie “Farewell My Concubine”).
This movie deals with issues of family, loyalty, love and tradition. It is an overt critique of traditional Chinese society but is also a pointed (though gentle) indictment of the resurgence of some of these Confucian values in modern China following the economic boom of the eighties and nineties...
64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent movie - highly recommend 9 Dec 2000
By Dave - Published on
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I've seen the King of Masks several times both in the Theatre and on DVD. After seeing it in the theatre, I called up several friends and talked them into watching it with me a 2nd time. Everyone thought it was a great movie.
Of the many excellent foreign DVDs in my collection, it is the one I'm most likely to loan out to friends who may not be too into foreign films or subtitles -- everyone has like it so far. If you've watched it, you also know that this is a great film to encourage friends to *start* watching more independent / foreign films.
The general storyline is well described in the other posted reviews. The King of Masks combines an excellent storyline with excellent characters, scenes, and cinematography. In my opinion this movie is suitable for all ages.
Subtitles are clear and easy to read.
There are many genuinely touching scenes in the film that will tug at your emotions. All of the lead acting is excellent.
If I had to (this would be hard) recommend only one "foreign" film to someone out of all the films I've seen so far from various countries, this would probably be it.
A person comes away from this film experiencing all of the good things a foreign film can present: dialect, characters, scenes, culture, unique plot. A lot of excellent movies only hit on 3 or 4 of these; this one hits on all cylinders.
This is one not only for your library, but to loan your friends, including the ones that usually only watch Hollywood box office hits.
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Visual Treat 17 April 2000
By Charles E. Little - Published on
"The King of Masks" is one of the best films I've seen in years, and I've seen quite a few. I love the fact that the Chinese have discovered what American filmmakers seem to have forgotten: that a good story, well acted and superbly shot, beats the heck out of high-tech special effects any day! This film is magical in its ability to transport you back to 1930's China and make you feel every little joy, every heartache, and the redemption of the human spirit in exquisite detail -- and it does it without blowing anyone or anything up! The actors deliver impassioned performances of a masterful script -- the director keeps the visuals captivating, and in the end, we are better people for having seen and loved this film. My only complaint -- why the Pan and Scan format! Please, please tell me we'll eventually be treated to the widescreen version of this modern masterpiece!
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The King of Masks is Anthropology 101 15 Mar 2000
By Miss Opine - Published on
What is it about us that makes us human? Please have this question in mind when you watch this film. This is a classic. It is literature on film. It has all of the dynamics of humanness that all of us live, understand or wish wasn't true. I had so many emotions flow through me while watching this film. It is so compelling. What I find even more interesting are the comments from viewers. They seem to feel the dynamics of this story, of the cultural dimensions and turnings, are wholly Chinese. It's as if they are asleep. It's as if they cannot recognize themselves in the film, if not exactly, certainly the possibilities are real. Therefore, this is why I recommend this film to parents and their children. It is a family film. But the lesson will be totally lost if American parents watch this film with their children and tell them, "See. This is how things were (or are) in China and some other places in the Third World." As if they don't happen and can't happen right here in America. This film is a chance to teach our children what all of the discipline and study and engagement in the better self is all about but it is also a wonderful opportunity for some parents to teach supremacy of the American Dream. And I can't emphasis "Dream" enough. Thank you for your attention.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captured my heart from the very beginning. I loved it! 20 Feb 2004
By Linda Linguvic - Published on
This 1996 Chinese film captured my heart from the very beginning. It's set in China in the 1930s, when street performing and Chinese opera were still considered an art. An old man performs with masks, an ancient Chinese art of which he is very proud. By family tradition, he must pass on his art to a male heir and, since his only son had died many years before, he needs to adopt a young boy. And so he goes to a "baby market" where parents and slave traders sell children. When an 8-year old calls out "grandpa", he purchases the child. It is only a few days later that he discovers that he has adopted a girl, not a boy. She begs him not to cast her away, and so he trains her to be a street performer, but does not teach her the art of masks because she is only a girl.

The plot gets more complex and held me captive with emotion as I was swept into the story and completely identified with the characters and all their problems, especially after the old man and the girl attend a Chinese opera, where female impersonators are stars. There, the ancient story of a woman sacrificing herself for her father is played out in highly dramatic costumed theatrics.

I loved this film - not only for the wonderful story and great acting, but it brought me right into the heart of China and let me immerse myself in another time and place. Yes, there is a happy ending, but not until there were more twists and turns of the plot and I never knew how it would all turn out. Acting was outstanding and I must applaud the actors, Yu Zhu as the old man, Zhigang Zhang as the female impersonator and - mostly, Renying Zhou as the little girl. Rarely have I seen such a fine performance by an 8-year old. Therefore, this film gets one of my highest recommendations. And even though there are some sad and scary parts, I recommend it for everyone.
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