The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam is as engaging as watching 90 minutes of disjointed Super-8 home movies of people you've never met, except with none of the cute kids or humor that might redeem the home movies. Consider it The Blair Witch Project without a story and with no acting.
The story relates the filmmaker's progress in documenting the life of her distant grandfather who was a famous vaudeville magician and acrobat. The angle is that, while Long Tack Sam traveled in the same circuit at other vaudeville artists who are globally known, he is unknown - totally forgotten. The filmmaker attempts to flesh out the man and to explore why he is forgotten.
Having seen the movie, I understand why he is forgotten. His story, at least as related in the movie, is wholly unengaging, and the film does him no favors by droning endlessly trying to make him interesting, when in fact, he is totally undistinguishable from the hundreds of other two-bit performers scraping together a living in the early 1900s. There is no filmed footage of his act; so we are meant to appreciate his performance through animation.
The film is painfully uninteresting to watch. I screened it among a film society audience of highly forgiving film lovers, and I believe it was the first film shown in our forum to have had audience members leave, continuously throughout the movie.
One positive note: the film uses a cute technique of animating still photos, but even that novelty wore off after about 5 minutes of it.
I recommend the movie as a non-narcotic solution if you are suffering from insomnia.
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