The Magical Life Of Long Tack Sam

This fascinating personal essay (2003) by Canadian filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming investigates the life of her great-grandfather, the Chinese vaudeville performer Long Tack Sam (1895-1961)one of the greatest magicians in the world (and one of the key mentors of Orson Welles), who was also an acrobat, though he’s mainly forgotten today. In fact, he circled the globe so many times and experienced so much that recounting his life in many ways means recounting the 20th century. Fleming, an animator and storyteller as well as a documentarian, draws extensively on her own varied talents to approach this elusive topic from many different angles, and her speculations are often as interesting as her findings. Indeed, the way Long Tack Sam keeps sliding out of her and our grasp, even though we wind up feeling that we know him in some fashion, is part of this film’s magic. 90 min. (JR)

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