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USA: Sony Pictures Classics
Cast: Xia Yu, Jared Harris, Liu Peiqi, Wang Jingming, Xing Yufei, Lu Liping; Fang Qingzhuo
Director: Ann Hu
Countries: China / Germany / Taiwan / USA
USA Rated: PG for brief mild language
USA Release Date: 6 April 2001 (Limited Release)
Peking, 1902. The Feng Tai Photo Shop is in a frenzy of preparation for the arrival of Peking's most important opera star, Lord Tan. Liu Jinglun (Xia Yu), the chief photographer, is oblivious to the chaos
In the flurry of activity surrounding Lord Tan's photo session, a foreigner, Raymond Wallace (Jared Harris), arrives. Raymond has come to introduce "Shadow Magic," the first silent movies, to Imperial Peking. From their first flicker, Liu is captured by the magic of the moving images.
"Shadow Magic" unfolds against a backdrop of animosity towards foreigners. Peking is still smarting from the wounds caused by the Boxer Rebellion and the European occupation of the city. Liu must hide his friendship with Raymond from his employer, Master Ren (Liu Peiqi), and his father, Old Liu (Wang Jingming). Liu's work at the photo shop starts to suffer as he spends more time with Raymond and he lies to Master Ren, never admitting that he's been working with the foreigner. It also jeopardizes his relationship with the woman he loves-Ling (Xing Yufei), the daughter of Lord Tan. Lord Tan is concerned that the "Shadow Magic" show and its Western influence will steal away his audience.
The conflict comes to a climax at the birthday celebration of the Empress Dowager in the Forbidden City. Lord Tan is to sing for her, Master Ren is to take her photograph, and Raymond is to show his films. Liu must choose between assisting Master Ren or assisting Raymond. Will he follow his dream of becoming a filmmaker and if he does will he ever be able to marry Ling?