Shadow Magic. Soundtrack by Lida Zhang. A Film by Ann Hu

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Shadow Magic – Music to the film by Ann Hu


mode 96 SHADOW MAGIC: music from the soundtrack to a film by Ann Hu. Composed by Lida Zhang for full orchestra with soloists on Chinese instruments. With additional excerpts from Chinese operas. A Sony Classics Pictures release. Howard Shore, music consultant.

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Shadow Magic - Music to the film by Ann Hu
Howard Shore, musical consultant. The 6 and 13 tracks traditional; the remainder of the selections composed, orchestrated and produced by Lida Zhang. (viewed Feb. 7, 2013). China National Symphony Orchestra. Recorded June 22-29, 1999. Previously released as a compact disc.

Beijing 1902 (2:23)
– Liu at the Victrola (0:41)
– Lord Tan (2:49)
– Fu Shou Hall (0:59)
– First Shadow Magic Show (1:23)
– Traditional* (2:26)
– The Butterfly (2:12)
– Ling’s Fan (2:04)
– The Great Wall (5:51)
– Liu’s Secret (0:49)
– Chinese People, Chinese Films (1:25)
– A Lesson in Editing (1:45)
– Traditional* (3:49)
– Photo Shop (1:24)
– The Kiss (1:01)
– Invitation to the Forbidden City (2:09)
– Shadow Magic for the Empress (2:33)
– Raymond Banished (1:22)
– Shadow Magic Legacy (6:47)

Set against a backdrop of hostility towards foreigners in China following the Boxer Rebellion and the expulsion of the Europeans, the film Shadow Magic takes place in imperial Peking in 1902. It opens with the arrival of Raymond Wallace (Jared Harris), a threadbare entrepreneur determined to make a profit by introducing the “moving picture” (referred to as “shadow magic”) to China. As a foreigner, Wallace’s attempts to interest the Chinese in the movies are rebuffed until he meets Liu Jinglun (Xia Yu), a young photographer who becomes captivated by the magic of the flickering images projected on the screen from the moment he sees them.

The film follows Liu, as he becomes involved with Wallace’s enterprise despite disapproval which jeopardizes his job as well as his relationship with the woman he loves (Xing Yufei). The film climaxes with the showing of the “moving picture” in the Forbidden City for the Empress Dowager.

Shadow Magic is Ann Hu’s valentine to the early days of cinema in Old China. It is inspired by the true story of Liu Zhong Lun, a photographer in Peking, and the lives of a few unknown Westerners who brought motion pictures to China. Through their pioneering efforts, the first Chinese narrative film was made in 1905, and the Chinese film industry was born.

The rich, colorful score by Lida Zhang skillfully combines eastern and western influences. TheĀ  full orchestra is features solos from traditional Chinese instruments. Also included are excerpts from traditional Chinese instrumental music. Noted film composer Howard Shore (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, Crash, etc.) served as musical consultant on the soundtrack.

Released by Sony Pictures Classics, it stars Jared Harris (whose credits include Happiness, Dead Man, I Shot Andy Warhol, Natural Born Killers and How to Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog), and one of China’s best known young actors, Xia Yu (Best Actor, 1994 Venice Film Festival for In the Heat of the Sun), along with a strong cast of Chinese actors.

Shadow Magic is directed, co-written and produced by New York based Chinese-American filmmaker Ann Hu (Dream and Memory), whose background of growing up during the Cultural Revolution drew her to the story of cultures coming together. Her immersion in both worlds greatly influenced her approach to storytelling. Filmed and recorded in China, this movie is also notable as the first collaboration between film studios in Taiwan and mainland China.

The film will be released in April 2001. For further information, stills, videos and cast details, please see the Sony Pictures Classics website for Shadow Magic at:


Lida Zhang – Shadow music
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Lida Zhang’s soundtrack to Ann Hu’s Shadow Magic. Full orchestra with soloists on Chinese instruments with a few traditional songs. The score is as colorful as the stills I found on the net – the film is set in Peking, China 1902 when the first silent movies arrived from the west. The music works without the film, more than you can say for most films. The score is majestic and panoramic even in the comfort of my own apartment. Zhang is currently associate professor in composition at the Central Conservatory of Music of Beijing. Howard Shore served as Musical Consultant.
— David Beardsley, Downtown Music Gallery (NYC)
Newsletter 54, 30 March 2001


Beijing, 1902, at the Feng Tai Photo Shop. Master Ren prepares for a formal portrait of Lord Tan,China’s most famous opera star, while chief photographer Liu, neglecting his duties for themoment, tinkers with a Victrola. Lord Tan arrives with a retinue, including his beautiful daughter, Ling, who exchanges glances with Liu. Meanwhile, a foreigner, Raymond Wallace, has setup the first crude movie theatre, Shadow Magic, with which he hopes to make a fortune and returnto England. Liu’s fascination with useless and disapproved foreign gadgetry leads him into adouble life working for both Ren and Wallace.

Shadow Magic slowly attracts a following, to the detriment of classical art forms. Working for two masters, Liu jeopardizes the respect and friendship he enjoys with both and puts his love for Ling at risk as well. In a stroke of Shakespearean farce, all the plot strands are brought together when Lord Tan, Master Ren, and Wallace are invited to display their arts at a party for the dowager empress. There a frightful accident intervenes to change the evening’s ground rules completely, as loyalty, friendship, and character are put to the test.

With artful use of black-and-white images, sepia duotones, chiaroscuro, and color, director AnnHu’s film is both a chronicle of the conflict between culture and technology and a study of thehuman relationships among the men and women caught up in it. Western and Confucian ideas oflove, friendship, and duty clash, and, in the case of Liu and Ling, combine.
—Nicole Guillemet, Sundance Festival

“China circa 1900 is re-created superbly…The film boasts a gorgeous visual style thanks to cinematographer Nancy Schreiber…Xia and Harris provide vivid performances…Hu handles the complicated production with assurance and skill.”
—Frank Scheck, The Reporter, Florida, 20 Nov. 2000