Shadow Magic

Rated 3.0 In 1902 China, a photographer’s assistant (Xia Yu) arouses the community’s suspicion by becoming enamoured of western inventions—especially the most amazing of them all, motion pictures, as presented by a travelling English showman (Jared Harris). Director Ann Hu’s love letter to the earliest days of Chinese cinema (written by Hu, Huang Dan, Tang Louyi, Kate Raisz and Bob McAndrew) is a bit too long and leisurely paced, overemphasizing the dual themes of East-meets-West and tradition-confronts-the-new-century. But Hu’s affection is contagious, and there are wonderful moments—especially the faces of these Chinese villagers as pictures move before their startled eyes. Xia Yu is excellent, as are Liu Peiqi as his hidebound employer and Li Yusheng as a famed actor threatened by the new medium.