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Azur and Asmar: The Princes' Quest (Bilingual) [Import]
In Azur and Asmar: The Princes' Quest, two children grew up together - Azur, the blue-eyed son of a nobleman, and Asmar, the dark-eyed child of a nurse. As they grow up, the nurse tells them many enchanting stories, but their favorite is about a beautiful fairy waiting to be released from captivity by a good and heroic prince. The two boys are as close as brothers, until the day Azur's father cruelly separates them, banishing Asmar from his home and sending Azur away for private education. Some year later, Azur sets out to a land far away to find Asmar and see if the legend of the fairy is true. Finally reunited, Azur and Asmar set out to see who will be the first to rescue the fairy.
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This film has an excellent message of tolerance for other cultures and cooperation (since our heroes wouldn't succeed without help from one another and wise men and women from several different nations and religions). It also has very strong female characters, from the heroes' mother/nanny (who explains how she ignores prejudice and superstition to move forward and win), to the adorable Princess Chamsous Sabah, who exhibits the best demonstration of a proper princessing education I've ever seen on film!
Some American sensibilities may be put off by the nanny nursing her infant children at her breast in the beginning of the film, or the scene of Asmar disgustedly eating carrion when he is lost in the desert and on the brink of starvation; but I'd hope most adults would be smart enough to watch and explain this with their kids, rather than just hiding it. These brief scenes are a part of the mosaic of life, and hiding the world from children only stunts them in the long run.
I recommend this film without reservation to audiences of all ages who are in the mood to be transported by a good story, well told, and beautifully rendered.
(This wonderful posting came from Anne-Lise Koehler-Lourdelet,"Azur and Asmar"s Back-ground director)
Movie Review: Azur and Asmar by Perry S. Chen (9 years old)
Rating: Five Starfish (out of five)
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!
This movie is truly SPECIAL because I got to meet the one-of-a-kind Director Michel Ocelot and interview him in San Francisco when he flew from his home country of France to appear at the opening of his movie in SF. Mr. 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!
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!).
The princess 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.
The fact that the Arab characters in the film speak in untranslated Arabic is a director's choice that adds wonderfully to the mystery of the enterprise. I was able to follow the actions and intentions of the characters even though I don't understand the language.
If you like this film, there is a wonderfully made 1926 German silent film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926). It can rightfully be said that Azur and Asmar is the (great?great great?)grandchild of this film, which was done entirely with paper cutouts! Try to get a copy of this and be amazed as I was at the fluidity and dynamism of the story and the images. This too is not to be missed! Turner Classic Movies shows this from time to time in their Sunday Night Silent bloc. Look for it!