Best of
lMovie Review
"Shadow Magic"
By Mira Harber
     This is a movie for people who love movies.  The time and place almost don't matter - it is the seductive world of cinema that captures the hearts and imaginations of many, regardless of the language.
     In 1902 an itinerant Englishman named Raymond Wallis (Jared Harris) makes his way to China and prepares to show the local populace the fantastic new discovery of 'moving pictures.' A stranger in a strange land, he is not initially accepted until he is befriended by a young Chinese man with an adventurous spirit and enquiring mind. 
     Liu Jinglun (Xiz Yu) is a photographer's assistant who is in love with inventions from the west. He's the first in Beijing to try a phonograph, and he experiments, and is successful, in discovering the beginnings of how to make pictures move. He is also a natural born salesman and entrepreneur. With his help, the Englishman's simple, silent films become a smash sensation. Shadow Magic (the name of both the show and the movie) is THE show in town that everybody wants to see. It even displaces the famous opera singer Master Ren and his show as the most popular entertainment in town. Our hero Lin Jinglun is, of course, in love with the opera singerís daughter. His father however, has different ideas, and has arranged for him to be married to a chubby middle-aged widow. There's nothing like thwarted lovers and familial opposition to drive the plot forward in a story. 
     The only thing that we can count on in life is change. The modern age encroaches on the old, and even the Dowager Empress hears of the now famous Shadow Magic and commands a special performance at the Imperial Palace. Even though the event turns out to be something of a disaster, it is in truth the beginning of the moving picture industry in China.
    Shadow Magic captures the color and energy of the Chinese people. It is at it's most beguiling when we see the locals filmed and then watch them delight at seeing themselves and their friends on the big screen.
     Both the English and Chinese stars of the film are perfect in their parts, and even if Shadow Magic is a little melodramatic and contrived at times, it is still charming and sweet. Definitely recommended.


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