This is a cute little movie. Shadow Magic
tells the story of the first person to bring moving pictures to China in
1902. This film isn't actually telling the real story but imagining
what it would have been like. The films and projector are brought
to China by a down-on-his-luck Englishman (Jared Harris). His wife
has left him and wants to make a lot of money and be a success in hopes
that she will return to him. He arrives in Beijing without much idea of
how to start a business in China. Luckily, a young Chinese man (Yu
Xia) who is obsessed with Western technology offers his services and soon
people are flocking to see the picture show. Xia himself is a metaphor
for the transition of China from the old to the new world. He is torn between
doing what his father has arranged for him, and what his heart tells him
to do. He falls in love with a beautiful young woman and doesn't
want to marry the rich middle-aged widow that his father has in mind.
The young woman's father performs traditional Chinese opera and the picture
show is taking business away from him. So she is torn also. The story
doesn't get too complicated, but this film has a nice feeling. Harris
and Xia have a good chemistry together and the supporting cast are amusing.
Harris, by the way, is the son of Richard Harris. The direction is
also interesting from first time director, Ann Hu. She does a good
job recreating life in China at the turn of the last century. There
is none of the complexity of Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Yi
Yi. It 's just an enjoyable little film.