One thing I love about Hong Kong films back in the 80s to mid-90s is that it has the tendency to praise hard work and perseverance. Netflix did a great job at recommending Painted Faces to me as I really enjoyed watching martial arts films but not all of them are made with passion and care. This film really depicted the rigorous training behind the scenes as performing artists which paid its tribute to the Chinese Opera School, which later brought out the best in Hong Kong martial arts films. I can testify because I was about three years old when I got my first exposure to Hong Kong action films and I remember begging my mom to watch more of them. The choreography and the fighting scenes were highly addictive to watch on top of the intriguing plots that always kept me on my toes. But I think what made me really like those films is how it teaches virtuous ideas and Painted Faces is no exception.
In this film, we follow a young boy called Big Nose. His mother had to join his father in Australia for work. Most parents would rather have their kids go to a university and become a scholar. It’s more prestigious than a performing artist. The young boy, Big Nose was handed over to Master Yu Jim-yuen, a strict Chinese Opera instructor who takes in young boys who are abandoned by their relatives for financial reasons or children who happen to be orphans. In return for lodging and food, the boys have to go through rigorous training to perform the Peking Chinese Opera and make money for the school. It’s a fair situation, putting the boys to use while providing shelter to them. Pretty much they are the property of the school. It sounds kind of bad, but not so bad at the same time.
What I really enjoyed about this film is watching how well-behaved and dedicated the children are to their teacher. Likewise, the teacher cares greatly for his students. But most importantly, the film taught me to never look down on myself regardless of what others think. Master Yu earned my respect. Overall, it’s a heartwarming film that reminds us to respect those who come before us. If you are looking for a feel-good film to watch, I highly recommend this one.