Emperor’s Shadow, The

Rated 4.0 In the third century B.C., the first emperor of China, Ying Zheng, struggles to unite his vast realm in the face of opposition from his childhood friend, a brilliant musician who despises the brutal path Ying’s career has taken. Directed by Zhou Xiaowen and written by Lu Wei, this enormous cast-of-thousands epic is marvelous to look at, intelligently conceived and psychologically subtle. Zhou makes cogent points about the human cost of political success and the tension between art and propaganda (Ying wants his musician friend to compose an anthem that will unite the conquered kingdoms of his empire, but the artist is appalled and disgusted). The only drawback is the hard-to-read subtitles.