The King of Masks is a 1996 Chinese film that didn’t come out in the US till 1999 and had a very small release. Its greatest impact seems to have come on home video with a great many people finding it comparable to, but better than, Whale Rider (2003). I’d argue neither position. This a calculating but obviously deeply felt film about an aging, childless street performer. Having no one to pass his craft on to, he buys an 8-year-old child to adopt. Unfortunately, it turns out that the child is only pretending to be a boy in order to better her chances for adoption (she’d been returned several times previously). Despite the deception, the old man has become attached to the child—even though she’s not suited (being a female) to inherit his craft. Yes, it’s all aimed at touching the heart, but it does it well.
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