King of Masks, The

(Mandarin w/English Subtitles)

This Chinese film is graced with a good dramatic story and superb performances. I hope American audiences won’t be put off by the subtitles; they are very easy to read and the dialogue is well done.

An old man by the name of Wang is the “King of Masks”, a street performer whose art will die out unless he can find an heir to which he can teach his extraordinary gift. But alas, Wang is quite old and his options are limited. So he goes to an underground market where the goods for sale are children, parents giving up their kids for various reasons and most of the kids getting dumped are unwanted girls. Wang doesn’t want a girl (no one does) but especially because according to tradition, his art must be taught only to a boy and no outsiders must know the secret of the masks. Wang gets lucky and a little boy is presented to him.

He calls the boy “Doggie” and Doggie calls him Grandpa. Both are extremely happy since it’s quite obvious that Doggie had been abused.

Disillusionment develops when Wang discovers that Doggie is, in reality, a girl, made up to pass as a boy because everyone has tried to dump her; she’s been sold 7 times. So much for Wang’s heir. He is distraught as is Doggie who no longer has the privilege of calling him Grandpa and she must now serve him as a houseboat cleaner and may never know the wonders of the masks.

The film is filled with love, despair, longing and tragedy for each of the two characters. Wang must still find an heir and Doggie still needs a family. The events that unfold bring each of them to the brink of hopelessness and through the kindness of an opera star who appreciates Wang’s genius, both have their dreams fulfilled in a most beautiful fashion.

Lotta says this is a worthy rental indeed!