Customer Reviews: Shadow Magic
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon September 16, 2001
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.
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on August 26, 2002
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 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!
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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.
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on May 24, 2006
I enjoyed the heck out of this movie, but even if I did not, the best part is that the Chinese spoken is easy to understand. The actors speak very clearly and the captioning actually is in the frames where the speaking occurs. The sound tracking is very clean. I have been watching a lot of Chinese films while I learn to speak Chinese.Too many times it is impossible to follow the voices. This film is great for voice clarity. speed of speaking, lack of complex sentences, and tracking. You can even hear the tonality of the language. A real blessing to begining suffering student.
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on March 9, 2003
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."
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on August 10, 2002
This film depicts the early efforts to introduce motion pictures to China. It is done with great gentleness and warmth and reflects a deep love of Cinema. The cinematography is great, as other of the new films from china (like Raise The Red Lantern and King of Masks) and it reflects the role of cinema in our lives much as Cinema Paradisio did. It is one of the warmest and most enjoyable films I have seen in years. I can't imagine it not being a strong contender for an Oscar as Best Foreign Film. The philosophy of the Chinese film maker profiled (who really did make the first Chinese film) is much like the Don McClean line "Weathered faces lined with pain are soothed beneath the artists loving hand". You should see this!
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on April 9, 2004
A must see movie suitable for all ages. Excellent fotography of real people and scenic geography of the Great Wall. The magic lies in the hearts and eyes of both the Chinese and one Raymond Wallace - the Englishman who introduced the movie camera technology to China during early 1900's. The movie contains both historical facts of that time and the complexity of human relations whenever "East" meets "West".
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on May 18, 2013
I had seen this movie many years ago and liked it. Unfortunately I couldn't remember the name, and was unable to track it down. With help of the imdb community I found the name, and a cheap copy here on Amazon.
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on November 9, 2006
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.
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I cannot help but noticing the striking colorful images the scenes provided. Just framing the scenes would have created a beautiful picture. Although the settings were a little to clean and new, the costumes were excellent. This 2000 turn of the century story with inspiration and love is directed by Ann Hu. Watch the commentary by Hu for wonderful insight into the making of the film. Like most Eastern movies, this is clean and something for the whole family.

The story dates to 1902 China. A young man, Liu, is so inspired by western technology and moving pictures, that he submits himself to become the assistant to a traveling English photographer. With persistence, he succeeds and the townspeople become delighted with images of themselves. The conflict arises when Liu is in love with the famed opera star's daughter. He doesn't want to jeopardize his position.

This film is lengthy, beautiful images, sepia tone and striking reds and shadows. The subtitles are displayed for easy reading. Stick with it for a glimpse into the past.....Rizzo
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