Set in Fenyang, Shanxi Province, the film focuses on a group of amateur theatre troupe performers whose fate mirrors that of the general population in China as massive socio-economic ... See full summary »
Beijing, 1902: an enterprising young portrait photographer named Liu Jinglun, keen on new technology, befriends a newly-arrived Englishman who's brought projector, camera, and Lumière-brothers' shorts to open the Shadow Magic theater. Liu's work with Wallace brings him conflict with tradition and his father's authority, complicated by his falling in love with Ling, daughter of Lord Tan, star of Beijing's traditional opera. Liu sees movies as his chance to become wealthy and worthy of Ling. When the Shadow Magic pair are invited to show the films to the Empress Dowager, things look good. But, is disaster in the script? And, can movies preserve tradition even as they bring change? Written by
This film is about so many things. Most obvious is the hold that film can have over an audience and how capturing life on film can be a kind of magic. There is also the tense relationship between China and the West as many Chinese saw (probably rightly so) the "Barbarians" as trying to take over and pollute their way of life. Liu even seeks to preserve their way of life on film because he sees that it will one day disappear. Their is also Liu's internal conflict between the loyalties and traditions of China versus the self-determination philosophy of the West. All these themes are woven quite skillfully into a coherent and enjoyable whole by Hu. A very enjoyable film.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?