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Debra Chong | San Francisco, CA United States | 09/16/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are interested in a truly great movie, representative of a historical period of time, early 1900s in China --- this is it!!! The sets, costumes and plot make this a MUST and HAVE TO purchase DVD for anyone who is interested in Chinese culture. Fascinating!!!! Don't be bothered that there are subtitles, they are written well. However, the acting is superb and communicates beyond the Mandarin. This surpasses Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon ten fold for anyone who is interested in a Chinese-made movie that is not merely martial arts. One of the best movies that I have ever seen, equivalent to The Last Emperor. For all ages!!!For technophiles like myself, this is fascinating to watch --- the introduction of photography and moving pictures in China."
A Passion For Film
Thomas M. Seay | Palo Alto, California USA | 08/27/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Usually I use the term "feel good" movie as a pejorative but not in this case. This is a slightly fictionalized version of the difficulties of the first Chinese film maker Liu. Having suffered humiliation at the hands of foreign colonialism, the Chinese are understably a bit xenophobic around the turn of the 20th Century. Liu has to struggle against this tendancy and the rigid confucianism of his day to follow his passion...film making.In addition to the interesting historical and biographical material of this film, we also get a glimpse at our own fascination with film...there is nothing new in film that doesn't
exist all around us...but film viewing allows us time to just sit still and take notice. Everyone will love this film!Thomas"
Universal themes wrapped in a unique package
bernie | Arlington, Texas | 04/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Only at the beginning of this movie do you strain with captions. As you progress they become almost second nature and you are transported into the story.
I was surprised as the basic story on the surface seems to tell of how people deal with new technology. This is the introduction of moving pictures or "Shadow Magic."
The reality of the story is the friendship of two people Raymond Wallace (Jared Harris), Liu Jinglun (Xia Yu), and their relation ship to others. Raymond is dumped by his wife for someone with money; yet finds his self and future in the making of film. Liu is in a rigid culture, including family and friends, which is trying to force him into marring a rich widow instead of the young aristocrat girl Liu Jinglun (Yufei Xing) he loves. Can Liu over come the culture and individual prejudices or will he re-assimilate? And what is to become of Raymond?
Though, short of a tear jerker, you will still get involved with their lives and marvel at the cinematography.
Friendship Through The First Motion Picture Show in China
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 03/10/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Loosely based on the Chinese cinema history, "Shadow Magic" portrays the people surrounding the first showing of moving picture in Beijing, China in 1902. But the film is more about the fictional chacaters involved in it rather than about the event itself, so do not expect any historical accuracy. And "Shadow Magic" succeeds as the former kind of picture.Jared Harris (son of late Richard Harris) is in the film as a British entrepreneur Raymond Wallace, who is eagar to make some money, showing the films he brought from the West, but, good as he is, it is not Harris who carries the whole picture. It is Chinese actor Xia Yu as Liu, a technician at photography studio who is really remarkable in "Shadow Magic," and he is just wondeful. Liu, interested in anything new from the West, is a kind of misfit in the traditional Chinese society, and naturally, is the first one to get hooked by the idea of Raymond -- showing the "Shadow Magic" in China. They gradually begin to understand each other, and the rapport between these likable fellows is definitely the best part of the show.The story written by director Ann Hu, I must say, needs some trimming, sometimes filled with clithed moments. And some viewers object to the way the Chinese society or culture is depicted here, claiming inaccuracy in the film. Probably, the film's director Ann Hu is already conscious of that, for she is born in China, and lived through the time of Revolution and Chiarman Mao, and then she left the country to study abroad, in USA where she lives now. Any production designs should be taken, I assume, as her own creations. If the story or atomosphere of the film looks like a blend of the West and the East, it is probably her intention, or the result of her cultural background. And I just do not think that the portrayals of Chinese people are seen through patronizing eye of Westerners. True, they sometimes suffer from clithe, but fairly done, showing enough variety of people among them, avoiding one-dimentional characterization of the East.The most moving scene of the film is, of course, the first moment in which the people first see the picture and react joyfully. You might have heard some famous episodes about the first viewers in Paris cafe where the Lumiere Brothers showed a short film of a train arriving at the station. The same thing happens to the Chinese people. The theme is thus universal.And again I say, the most joyful experience for us is to see the truly believable character of young Liu, who must decide his way of life between the two cultures. His character and the performance of Xia Yu well deserve the name of "Shadow Magic.""
Sherlock | Chicago, Illinois | 11/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What an interesting movie - a real find. Very intelligently written and beautifully executed, the movie "reflects" the birth of motion pictures and how mysterious and wonderful it appeared to people experiencing it for the first time."