A Chinese film with English subtitles, "The King
of Masks" starts out strong and enduring, but
squanders its tender sincerity on dramatics.
A sweet and aging street performer with no male
descendants to carry on his mask-changing art resorts
to purchasing an orphan boy. The relationship between
the two outcasts from opposite ends of the life cycle
is as warm and rich to witness as the man's artistry.
However, very early on we (the audience) learn that
the boy is really a girl, a promising conflict to
this modest paradise. Soon thereafter, the old man
wises up to this fact as well. A strong animosity
between the two develops into a spark which ignites
an unnecessary fire of dramatic events resulting in
the old man's incarceration.
If I could forgive the accidental fire and the
pending hanging of the old man (which I could), then
I would have enjoyed the orphan's desperate, though
theatric, act of redemption (which I did). But, it
went too far. Already dangerously teetering on the
melodramatic, this powerfully sweet scene concludes
with entirely anticlimactic redundant and plainly
putrid dialogue. Where was the editor?
If my words are harsh on this little film, it's
only because the filmmakers wet my appetite with a
wonderful setting to what I'd expected to be a great
Why spill the beans so soon? This unique
relationship would have been enough to keep me
interested -- I didn't need the pseudo drama. Why not
have the girl keep her secret well into her teens,
only to find out after the old man dies that he knew
her secret all along?