Daily Archives: May 10, 1999

The King Of Masks

Wu Tianming (Old Well)the former godfather of mainland China’s Fifth Generation filmmakers when he headed the Xian film studio and green-lighted such innovative pictures as The Horse Thief, Red Sorghum, and King of Childrenreturned to filmmaking in 1996 after an extended stint in the U.S. This beautifully inflected and wholly accessible tale, set in Sichuan in the 30s, concerns an aging street performer (Zhu Xu) who unknowingly purchases and adopts a little girl (Zhou Ren-ying), thinking she’s a boy, with the intention of training an heir. Though the premise sounds hokey, the storytelling and performances are so expressive that one might not even notice the subtle and detailed commentary being offered on gender politics. An actor and female impersonator (Zhao Zhigang) plays a pivotal role in the proceedings. In Mandarin with subtitles. 101 min. (JR) Read more

The Castle

A very far cry from the Franz Kafka novel of the same title, this faux populist Australian comedy, Miramax to the max, is a prime example of how readily that country’s intermittent self-hatred can be translated into box office: it reportedly grossed more than any other Australian movie in 1997. A sweet-tempered and terminally dim tow-truck driver and family man (Michael Caton) refuses to sell his house to allow for an airport extension, fights his cause all the way up to the supreme court, and guess what? The little man triumphs. Director Rob Sitch is no Capra and none of his three writers comes close to Robert Rifkin, but if what you’re looking for is another opportunity to feel simultaneously superior to and affectionate about hicks, then I guess this is your movie. With Anne Tenney, Stephen Curry, Sophie Lee, Anthony Simcoe, and Charles Bud Tingwell. 84 min. (JR) Read more