[box cover]

The King of Masks

The King of Masks is one of the most striking examples of the effects of prejudice ever brought to the silver screen. This beautiful costume drama, set in 1930's China, tells the story of an elderly street magician (Zhu Xu), the self-proclaimed "King of Masks," who fears that his art will die with him. Lacking an heir, Xu decides to purchase a young boy (Zhou Ren-ying) from the Chinese black market and make the child his apprentice. The boy in question, an eager-to-please young fellow with the unfortunate name of Doggie, soon bonds with his new "Grandfather," and both man and child seem pleased with the relationship. Until, that is, Doggie is discovered to be a girl (girls were forbidden to learn the art of magic at that time). Having spent his life savings on a child he now considers worthless, "Grandfather" must nonetheless come to terms with his new daughter and their increasingly complex relationship. The King of Masks is a marvelous film, full of drama and warmth, but the transfer (which is full-frame, at that!) leaves much to be desired: the print looks washed-out, resulting in a very soft and faded image. The DVD includes production notes and a theatrical trailer (which is, oddly, letterboxed, even though the feature is not). A wonderful movie, but a lousy DVD presentation. This entertaining, thoughtful film deserved better.
—Joe Barlow

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