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Movie Review: Azur and Asmar (published on “We Chinese in America” Feb 20, 2009)

Published on: 16th March, 2009

Azur and Asmar is a visually stunning movie. The breathtaking colors capture the flair of the Arabian Nights. I especially liked the vibrant flowers. This movie is about courage, sacrifice, love, and brotherhood. It is one of my all time favorite movies!

Azur and Asmar are nursed under the loving care of Asmar’s mother, whom Azur called “Nanny”. Azur is a fair-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed boy. Asmar is a brown-skinned, hazel-eyed, and black-haired boy. One time, they roll in the mud while fighting with each other, and are covered with mud from head to toe. Another night, Asmar throws snacks to the starving Azur when he is punished by his brutal father.

Asmar’s mother told the boys stories of a faraway homeland and the Djinn Fairy, more beautiful than any diamond, waiting to be set free by a handsome prince. Then one day, Azur’s cold-hearted father harshly broke Azur and Asmar apart.

When Azur grew up, he sailed over the vast, dark seas, in search of the imprisoned Djinn Fairy, but he got shipwrecked and was washed up ashore on an unfamiliar land. Then he notices that it is his Nanny’s homeland because the locals were speaking the same language.

Azur is rejected for his blue eyes, which were thought to bring bad luck. I noticed that there were not many plants and there were only jagged rocks and barren land there. Azur thought the things and people were ugly in the land, so he closed his eyes and said, “From now on, I am blind.”

I thought it was amazing when still “blind,” Azur found two of the keys for the three magic doors that he had to pass later to get to the Djinn Fairy. They were the door of fire, the door of gases, and the door of blades (he had not found the key to the last door). He was guided by a filthy beggar named Crapoux who came from the same land as Azur.

Azur follows a voice, thinking it is his Nanny, and it was! After a feast, Azur saw his dashing brother Asmar for the first time in a long time. Azur then finds the Wise Man Yadoa who tells Azur of the dangers he would face. Many a prince had been eaten by either the scarlet lion or the bird with rainbow wings.

Azur makes friends and gets what he needs from a tiny princess named Chamsous Sabah, who is still very young, but cute and kind. Though the princess was miniscule in size, she was enormous in knowledge, because she was taught by the best tutors in the world (but I think my mom is better!).

She learned seven languages. I wonder if she speaks Chinese. She gave Azur the formula of invisibility, a secret that can let him talk to lions, and an iridescent feather.

The princess was agile and ran fast, like a ball of delight with legs! I noticed that there are different scenes in every door Azur passes before he meets the princess, my favorite character in the movie.

The princess was locked in a palace and never allowed to come out. Azur let the princess out on a dark night. She never saw the real earth, a live tree, or a live cat before. At first, she was scared of the kitten, but after Azur reassured her, she stroked the cat and enjoyed it very much.

I noticed the music went fast when Azur and the princess were chased by other suitors of the Djinn Fairy.

The next day, Azur and Asmar set off in search of the Djinn Fairy, but the quest to save the fairy is a rocky one. Through torment and trial together, the brothers finally conquered all their enemies. The funniest part was when Asmar’s mom said “with the tone of my voice, the language doesn’t matter.”

My favorite scene is the garden of Asmar’s mother, a garden full of imaginary flowers, overflowing with spectacular blossoms, more beautiful than any other real gardens I have ever seen! The most moving scene was when Asmar sacrificed his own life to help Azur win the Djinn Fairy.

Martin Luther King Jr. would be overjoyed to see this movie because it represents his ideals that men “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”. Despite Azur and Asmar’s differences from the outside, their blood was the same color.

Nothing can break the bond between two brothers.

Copyright 2009 Perry S. Chen

Movie Review: Kirikou and the Sorceress 3-5-09

The movie “Kirikou and the Sorceress” is a monumental journey of a tiny boy in a small African village, which is terrorized by Karaba the Sorceress. It is a story of love, courage, perseverance, and heroism.

The Sorceress is taking away the villagers’ jewels and is thought to eat the men who dare to fight her. She lives in a temple guarded by robots called “fetishes.”

In the village, an expecting young mother has a baby who is impatient to be born in her womb. The mother said: “A baby who can talk to his mother in her stomach can give birth to himself.” Thenthe baby did crawl out of the mother’s womb, wash himself, and named himself “Kirikou.” He finds out that his uncle is going to fight Karaba the Sorceress.

Kirikou is fast and agile. In a flash, he gets a hat and runs to his uncle who puts on the hat and then the hat talks! It is Kirikou! He helps the uncle attack and defend himself from the fetishes. Karaba orders the fetish to get the hat that called him “Uncle”, but the hat runs away!

The village children also fall prey to the Sorceress. They were captured by a Karaba’s dug out and a walking tree. But Kirikou thwarted the Sorceress’s attempts with wisdom and courage.

Kirikou has a persistent question: Why is the Sorceress evil? There is only one man who knows the answer: Kirikou’s grandfather, the wise man of the mountains. Kirikou travels through a narrow tunnel underneath Karaba’s temple to meet his grandfather. Along the way, Kirikou makes friends with a family of squirrels whom he saved from a ravenous skunk. The squirrels give him food and presents.

To escape from the piercing glare of the watchful “look-out fetish,” Kirikou dresses up as a bird. But a real bird bigger than him tries to peck his feathers off, revealing a clump of naked skin! The fetish is very intrigued. The squirrels see their friend in peril, so they defended Kirikou by aggressively baring their teeth, arching their backs, and thrashing their tails to the big bird. The fetish would have been suspicious if it saw a bird clinging to another bird with its wings!

Kirikou finally got to his grandpa’s mountain paradise. He told Kirikou secrets about Karaba the Sorceress and an animal drinking up the water from the cursed spring. It is a creature warped by greed.

With one magical act, Kirokou drains Karabar’s powers and something magical happens to him too!!!

This movie is truly SPECIAL because I got to meet the one-of-a-kind Director Michel Ocelot at the screening. I got to interview him in San Francisco! Monsieur Ocelot is a very enchanting man and I would love to learn more about him and his childhood in Africa. Meeting him is truly a MAGICAL experience!

All the village women in the movie were dressed in the African traditional way with a loincloth and bare torso. And young children stayed without clothes, a natural thing to do, as the teperature was high. Monsieur Ocelot shared the stories behind the movie release: None of the American distributors wanted to release the movie. “They would have if I had put bras and pants everywhere, and ruining the honesty of this African tradition,” said Monsieur Ocelot during the audience Q&A session.

I saw Monsieur Ocelot’s new movie “Azur & Asmar” last month, and found many similarities and differences when comparing and contrasting the two movies. In “Azur & Asmar”, the main characters are two boys of different race. In “Kirikou and the Sorceress”, the character is a squirrel-sized boy. Azur & Asmar both want to liberate the Djinn Fairy, while Kirikou just wants to help get rid of the evil from the Sorceress. The setting in Azur & Asmar is an Arabian land, while the setting for Kirikou is an African village.

Both movies are enchanting and magical, and both have a quest. All key characters are brave and clever. You also need to, in both movies, enter many doors before you succeed. I noticed that both movies have a wise old man, and last, they both have responsible, loving, and nurturing mothers.

In “Kirikou and the Sorceress,” small has small’s advantages. But most of all, courage, perseverance, and wisdom are the keys to the magic door of success.

Copyright 2009 Perry S. Chen

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Readers Comments

  1. Anne-Lise Koehler says:

    Dear Perry,

    Thank you for this impressing review!
    I am very moved you loved Jenane’s garden.
    My grand-mother’s garden in Casablanca was absolutly stunning and with so bright colours!
    I would love to take your hand and take you there to see, but all is gone…
    Michel made me such a fantastic present with this film to paint! and I love Jenane too, who is, like my mother and grand mother, found of flowers, good meals, beautiful serving, and house decorating.

    Of course, Princess Chamsous-Sabah, as clever as she is, couldn’t ignore chinese!
    She surely would love to talk with you!
    The relations between China and arabian world are very deep and old.

    In the decorator team, there were two who are from chinese families:
    Anne-Laure To, and Thierry N’Go.
    There were both very astonished to see how many tales and artistic feelings are shared by arabian and chinese culture.
    This is one of the fantastic lessons of Michel Ocelot in this film: This world is small …and so beautiful!. we share more things than we think, and the specific talent of each civilization is a present given to anyone.
    working on this film, I realized how morrocan I am! My childhood holidays, the people I met and loved over there…and the brightness in my mother’s eyes when she talks to me about over there…
    I think we can say we are from a country just because we love it!

    Thank you dear Perry.
    I will come again and again to read your rewiews.
    Congratulation to your mother who seems to be a marvelous teacher; and congratulations to you, because it’s fantastic for a good teacher to have a very clever pupil.

    Best regards,

    Anne-Lise Koehler-Lourdelet
    (Azur and Asmar Back-ground director.)