French animator Michael Ocelot’s latest film Azur & Asmar is a film that every animation buff should seek out, filled with some of the most beautiful and intricate animation we’ve seen in a long-time.
Azur’s Middle-Eastern nurse raises him alongside her own son Asmar. Treated as brothers, she regales the young boys with a story about the Djin fairy, imprisoned in a country across the sea and who awaits a prince who will free her from plight. As the boys grow-up Azur’s father decides to separate them, sending Azur off to school and Asmar and his mother back to their own country. When Azur reaches adulthood, he decides to cross the sea on a quest to free the Djin fairy. He is eventually reunited with Asmar and his mother and the two young men join together in their quest.
Composed of vibrant jewel tones, and intricate backgrounds Azur & Asmar is a joy to watch. The story is told simply and devoid of the usual American conventions of creating snappy characters and pop-culture references. Ocelot’s stunning animation actually becomes a sort of narrator and washes over the viewer. Some viewer’s may be put off by the odd computer animation techniques. Much more attention and detail is given to the backgrounds, than actual character animation. And while the physical details of the character’s faces and bodies are nicely achieved, the clothing for the characters is flat and block-y.
The film has had an extremely limited theatrical release, and will be very unlikely that you can go to your local multiplex and see it. However, it has been released on DVD recently and is worth seeking out. If you are lucky enough to encounter a movie theater that is showing it-GO! You won’t be disappointed.