AZUR & ASMAR (Michel Ocelot, 2006)

The paternal principle divides, causing class, racial and gender contentiousness, and the maternal principle binds, generating love, strength, humanity, in an exquisitely beautiful, pulse-pounding animated adventure from France’s Michel Ocelot: Azur & Asmar—to which title an extension has been added in the States: the Princes’ Quest. The princes are Azur, a blond, blue-eyed aristocrat, and Asmar, whose dark-skinned mother has raised them both. Now grown, both boys go forth competitively in Islamic Africa to find, liberate and marry the legendary Djinn Fairy. Along the way they learn the depth of their fraternal bond and digest the influences of three strong females: Asmar’s elegant mother; a child princess who escapes at night the prison of her palace and playfully explores the vast city; and the Djinn Fairy herself, who is nobody’s prisoner, it turns out, and nobody’s fool.
     Twenty-five different nationalities are represented among those who made this tremendously moving film, a key image of which shows a church, a mosque and a synagogue in a harmonious row. Without becoming preachy, the film packs powerful messages concerning ethnic and cultural diversity. It is both simple and complex—as joyously and heart-wallopingly entertaining for adults as for children.
     Visually, it is sparklingly beautiful, a feast of color and light, a mystery of spirit amidst intricate architecture and thrilling magic. Those who have wallowed in the charmless gutter garbage of Ratatouille (Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava, 2007) can now have their spirits cleansed. By the way, Ocelot’s film includes the most dazzling lion imaginable.
     It is about two boys, then, and their spirit of adventure and the courage in their hearts, their love for their biological/surrogate mother, and their openness to diverse, multicultural experience, which reflects many kinds of equality under the stars, the moon, the sun.


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