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Shadow Magic

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Shadow Magic

Starring: Jared Harris, Lu Liping
Director: Ann Hu
Rated: PG
RunTime: 112 Minutes
Release Date: April 2001
Genres: Drama, Foreign


*Also starring: Lu Peiqi, Xia Yu, Xing Yufei, Li Yusheng



Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
2.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

"There are mountains behind the mountains," remarks one of the viewers of the first motion picture to be shown in Peking. The images show a Western world that is indeed far behind and beyond the Chinese mountain ranges. With the eager help of young photographer Liu Jinlun (Xia Yu), Englishman Raymond Wallace (Jared Harris), an artistic P.T. Barnum-type character, opens a "Shadow Magic" extravaganza to display his combination of home movies and English travelogue. Soon these two entrepreneurs are packing them into the old warehouse that serves as their picture palace.

Set amidst the turmoil of a changing era as China reluctantly welcomes the twentieth century, SHADOW MAGIC, which was "inspired by a true story," is a good-spirited movie written and directed by Ann Hu. A stunningly gorgeous costume drama, the movie suffers from its nearly two hour length and its threadbare scripting. The lushness of Nancy Schreiber's cinematography almost makes up for the thinness of the characterizations. Liu, the central character, has a large, silly grin plastered on his face through most of the movie. When Liu runs into trouble, it's hard to empathize with him since he is such a stick figure. Raymond isn't much better. He's the classic dreamer whose wife left him for another man, which is easy to understand.

What really works in the movie, other than the authentic and nostalgic sets, is the wonderment of seeing a new technology so entrance a populace. The movie effectively reminds us how revolutionary some of today's gadgets were just a century ago. The world changes more rapidly than we would ever believe. "They say the time will come when men will cut off their pigtails and women will unbind their feet," Liu tells his photography studio employer, Master Ren (Lu Liping), who finds it quite hard to believe.

SHADOW MAGIC runs 1:55. The film is in Mandarin with English subtitles and in English. It is rated PG for brief mild language and would be acceptable for kids old enough to read subtitles.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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