Wang (Zhu Xu) is an aged gent with a tight, tragic face that occasionally splits into a wide, Alfred E. Newman grin. He and his devoted pet monkey, General, live on a creaky houseboat the size of a minivan, sailing through 1930s China and living by their wits. Wang has a wondrous traveling magic act, but he seems fated to take his secrets to the grave, for he has no sons and tradition dictates he can only pass his act on to a male heir. Desperate, Wang acquires an adorable little boy on the black market, nicknaming him Doggie (Zhou Ren-ying). Wang imagines his troubles are over, but it turns out Doggie has a secret to share, too.
1996's The King of Masks is a marvel, equal parts social realism and fable, full of heartbreak and beauty and pee, and if you don't bawl copiously you are one stone-cold bastard. There is one scene, not far into the film, where Wang seriously contemplates abandoning Doggie to the streets; as poor Doggie cries out for him it's nearly unbearable, and we can only excuse the old man by remembering that Wang lives in a different time, where his actions wouldn't be considered so heartless. Besides, he's a pig-headed old coot. But Doggie is such a loyal and pure-hearted little creature–not unlike a real doggie, in some ways–that Wang can't help but be won over. Of course, Doggie has stolen our hearts by the first reel. (And, of course, we must not discount the monkey, easily one of the great simian acting finds of his generation.)
The King of Masks is a once in a lifetime movie, presented here in a rare big screen show, hosted by screenwriter and professor Michael Berlin. Go, and if you have some kids handy take them, too. Bowers Museum, Fluor Gallery, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 567-3680. Sun., 1:30 p.m. $8. (Note that seating limited.)
All That Heaven Allows and Female Trouble. The Orange County Museum of Art's two winter film series—one devoted to the films of John Waters and the other to Waters' favorite films— conclude by hopping in bed together for a night of sweaty, double feature fun. First off, you got Douglas Sirk's swooning 1955 melodrama All That Heaven Allows, followed by Waters' own 1974 atrocity, Female Trouble, starring the director's tubby, tranny muse Divine as lovable harpy Dawn Davenport. Orange County Museum of Art, 850 San Clemente Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 759-1122; www.ocma.net. Thurs., Jan. 12, 7:30 p.m. Free.
The Bad Seed. The Orange County Museum of Art's John Waters's Flick Picks series presents Mervy LeRoy's campy, 1956 horror show starring Patty McCormack as one of filmdom's great demon children. Orange County Museum of Art, 850 San Clemente Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 759-1122; www.ocma. Thurs., Jan. 5, 7:30 p.m. Free.
Dellamorte Dellamore. The way that title rolls off the tongue, you expect an arty Italian picture, maybe with some romance, maybe with some comedy. And indeed, this movie offers all that . . . but with zombies. Rupert Everett stars in Michele Soavi's 1994 gory-cult fave as a cemetery worker who must cope with an uprising of the undead. Il Postino this ain't. Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, 117 N. Sycamore, Santa Ana, (714) 667-1517. Fri., 8 p.m. Free.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Terry Gilliam films Hunter S. Thompson's unfilmable tale of drug-fueled madness in the Sin City of the early '70s, managing to effectively capture the book's exhausting, nauseous energy while adding plenty of squirmy details of his own. Johnny Depp's never been weirder, Benicio del Toro's never been grosser. I don't suggest seeing this movie while in an altered state; that'd just be overkill. Go in sober as a judge, and you'll stagger out feeling like you've done enough acid to kill a hippo. Edwards South Coast Village, 1561 W. Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana, (800) 326-3264. Wed., 9 p.m., $6; Edwards Rancho Santa Margarita, 30632 Santa Margarita Pkwy., Rancho Santa Margarita, (949) 888-3358. Thurs., Jan. 12, 9 p.m. $6.
Lives of Performers. Yvonne Rainer's 1972 debut feature follows a man who lets two women suffer as they wait for him to choose between them. "Rainer is required viewing for anyone interested in the frontiers of film," wrote Newsday's John Anderson. The screening will be preceded by Rainer's short film, Line. Rainer, an influential choreographer who began work on this film as part of a dance performance, is now a Distinguished Professor of Studio Art at UC Irvine and will appear at the screening. Introduction by David James, Professor of Critical Studies, Cinema-Television, USC. UCI Film and Video Center, Humanities Instruction Bldg., Room 100, Campus & W. Peltason drs., Irvine, (949) 824-7418; www.humanities.uci.edu/fvc. Thurs., Jan. 12, 7 p.m. Free public reception, Room 135, 6 p.m. Free.
Rounders. Semi-obscure 1998 Matt Damon movie about a gambler-turned-law-student who is lured back to the poker table for one last, big win. I'm guessing this big screen showing has something to do with America's current, inexplicable fascination with poker? Maybe? Edwards Rancho Santa Margarita, 30632 Santa Margarita Pkwy., Rancho Santa Margarita, (949) 888-3358. Thurs., Jan. 5, 9 p.m. $6.
You Can't Take It With You. Jimmy Stewart is a millionaire who's fallen for working class lovely Jean Arthur. The problem: Arthur's kooky family lives in a crumbling old house directly on the spot where Stewart's dad wants to build an office complex, and they're not budging. Frank Capra directs (and sweetens up, as he would) this adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. The screening features discussion with Dr. Arthur Taussig, the locally based film authority who offers keen insights along with a baritone voice that will make you think of Darth Vader's jolly uncle. Orange Coast College, Fine Arts Building, Room 116, 2701 Fairview Rd., Costa Mesa, (714) 432-5599. Fri., 6:30 p.m. $5-$6.
Mail your press releases (and a videotape, if available) to Special Screenings,OC Weekly, 1666 N. Main St., Ste. 500, Santa Ana, CA 92701-7417. Or send e-mail to email@example.com. All materials must be received at least two weeks before the screening.
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