Initially, this film attracted me to its screening this evening at the 37th Hawaii International Film Festival presented by Halekulani because of the plot’s close resemblance to one of my favorite Italian films, Cinema Paradiso. The film uses the plot of a child relating to a projectionist to its advantage, but instead chooses to focus on the projectionist, whereas the previously-mentioned film focuses mostly on the experiences of the child. This, in my opinion, was a mistake, as the protagonist in this film is almost entirely unlikable, save for his clever way of teaching his son about film scores, a method that I wholly relate to as a lover of older music. The film also falters on this front, though, as it opts for using a butchered version of some of the music, as opposed to its original version. This is probably due to budgetary constraints, but cannot be ignored any less, due to the film’s presence at a major film festival.
The acting is fine for what the film is. Most notably, there is a security guard at a theater who steals every scene he’s in, and makes the audience come to hate him. That is always the mark of an effective villain, and it is one of the things King of Peking does best. I am disappointed to say, though, that there is not much else that isn’t average about this film. The directing, writing, and cinematography were all serviceable. I was distracted at times by the editing choices, like some unexpected instances of jumpcuts being used in place of smoother editing transitions. As well, much of the film is shot handheld, as opposed to on a stable tripod, and this was especially irritating at the start of the film, where it was most egregious. As the film went on, though, I settled in and let the story take me in. The film has an interesting hook, being a twist on the formula of what is essentially a much better film, but falters during the second act, where it slows to a crawl. Eventually, though, the film once again found its footing and by the end, I was ultimately satisfied with the viewing experience. If you really love Chinese cinema, and especially Chinese comedies, check this film out. Otherwise, you shouldn’t feel guilty about skipping this one. In one word, King of Peking was just “okay.”