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NEW King Of Masks (DVD)

4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 158.27
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, DVD sound quality poor April 22 2004
By A Customer
Several years ago, I saw this movie in a theater and loved it. So, I bought the DVD as a Christmas gift. The picture was great but the sound quality was not the best.
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars a Good Heidi Movie, done Chinese-style Feb. 4 2004
This is a new Heidi movie with some nice changes.
This would be good paired with "Heidi", "Whale Rider" or "About a Boy".
Basically, it's about an old man searching for an heir to pass on his Chinese-mask traditions. He's looking, goes to the blackmarket where it's filled with desperate mothers trying desperately to sell their children---mostly daughters. It's not that they want to make big money off the children, it's to keep them from being abandoned and starving to death. So if you want a hell on earth, it's here. Anyway, he steps right over them without a glance at the weeping, begging, heartbreaking desperation.
Finally he gets a boy! All is right in his world. The son is treated like a king. Then after an accident...the son is revealed for something else. Poof, he casts the weeping little child out to starve in the streets, heartbroken and devastated.

Through much adventure, and the child's bravery, the old man learns to reevaluate his values and priorities. (Frankly, I don't know if I could trust that old man again after him turning on me that way--but this is a child.)
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By jblack
A wonderful movie that accurately portrays some of the issues concerning the important of being male in China, The Middle Kingdom. Following is a little synopsis I wrote concerning the inequality between males and females in China. I hope this helps shed a different perspective on the movie. Enjoy!
China has long had a patriarchal society, where the female population suffers blatant discrimination as a lower class of human existence. The King of Masks portrays this disparity between the sexes in The Middle Kingdom through the story of the last remaining master of face-changing opera who is searching for a male heir to whom he can pass his family secrets of the specialized art. When rendering the subtle plot into focus through a lens that questions the country's priorities in terms of values, two scenes stand out that demonstrate an emphasis to preserve the traditional order of masculine hierarchies.
Scanning the orphanage for a potential student and future heir of his unique training, the King of Masks is confronted by potential sellers trying to rid themselves of unwanted children--most of whom are female and therefore considered relatively useless. In fact, at one point, when one of the sellers is begging the King of Masks to take a little girl the master refuses to acknowledge the woman's pleas, even when she drops her price to a measly two dollars. At one-fifth the original price, the King of Masks quietly scoffs that no girl would be worth that amount of fortune. Yet, as soon as a boy cries out, "Grandpa," the King of Masks appears near tears at the thought of having an heir finally. Gladly he pays the two dollars and takes the boy home, hand in hand.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully Played Dec 6 2001
Casting is sometimes everything, and in this sentimental tale it is the actors playing the Old Master and the little girl that make it all worthwhile. Exquisitely filmed with the period (1930's China)details just right, the story of an old Master of the Mask-changing art wanting to find a boy apprentice to pass the secrets of his craft on to, who is fooled into paying for a little girl disguised as a boy, and the problems that ensue in that relationship when her true gender is discovered, is bitter/sweet and in the end heart-warming.
As I said the actors playing the Old Master and the young girl are simply marvelous. Wonderful faces, wonderful performances. Also to be noted is the actor playing the female impersonator Opera star. It is these performances that make the film work even when it begins to stretch the sentimentality and credibility a bit at the end. By then you shouldn't mind because you should be caught up in their drama and care for these characters.
A simple, nicely told tale, that also demonstrates the harshness of the social contract in the 30's in China and everywhere. You were on your own. And that harshness still exists in many places in the world. Another reviewer has explained some of the reasons for the Old Master's (and the culture's) insistence on passing on the craft to a male heir. But, that aside, it was a hard world for little girls without family. And it is a reminder in these times of how harsh a culture can be that does not value women.
That one can learn that value is best placed where the heart is, is not a bad lesson to remember anytime. Beats the hell out of 90% of the drivel coming out of Hollywood. 4 1/2 stars.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary
This is an extraordinarily great movie, a all time favourite in my opinion. I watched this movie two times about 10 years ago, the second time with my parents. Read more
Published on Jan. 11 2007 by Chun Hing Chan
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful film set in historic China
This is a wonderful film, set in 1930s Sichuan, about an old man who is the last living practitioner of face-mask changing. Read more
Published on March 25 2004 by audrey
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
Even though I saw this movie years ago it still comes up in conversation and will forever be one of my favorite movies. Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2004 by Ed Campos
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Movie......
Probably one of the best movies I have ever seen -- always makes me cry at the end. Thank goodness it didn't end tragically like so many Chinese movies seem to.
Published on Oct. 8 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Will make you smile and cry like a little biaatch!
The end of this sweet movie will make you cry like a biaatch. Get your tissues.
Published on Aug. 10 2003 by S. Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars A true feel good movie (even for Doggie)
This is an amazing movie that anyone who wants an uplifting experience should watch. I won't go into the political details which other reviewers are fixated on. Read more
Published on July 22 2003 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply BEAUTIFUL.
An amazingly moving tale of an untraditional relationship reflecting the traditional Chinese virtue of filial love and duty. Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2003 by Fresh Lychee
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply BEAUTIFUL.
A lovely tale of an untraditional relationship that encompasses the traditional Chinese virtue of fillial duty that has touched everyone we have lent the DVD to. Read more
Published on Feb. 26 2003 by Fresh Lychee
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!! great Drma
The King of Masks is an old man, the last in a great line of performers. He wants to rest, he wants a lot of money more importantly he wants an heir someome who can carry on his... Read more
Published on Dec 5 2002 by General Pete
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