May 25, 2004

Live From SIFF

Sorry about that whole dropping off the face of the earth there loyal cinecultists. Just when you think you've paid up on the year's expenses in terms of hosting and registration fees, turns out no. You haven't. And we're cutting off your web service until you pay up. So there. Argh. Anyhow, all is well now for Cinecultist and "Obsessing Over Movies In the Eee Vee since 2003," and in the meantime we bring you the first report from our new Seattle Correspondent, the ever pithy Maggie, who attended some ass-kicking asian fare at this year's Seattle International Film Festival.

This year, I kicked off my SIFF experience with a midnight screening of Azumi at the Egyptian theater on Saturday night. Nothing says SIFF like waiting in line in a dark, muddy alley for half an hour whilst faux drag-queen club girls mince by you into into Neighbors on ridiculous platform heels. Luckily, I had the foresight to bring cookies, so the time passed swiftly.

At any rate, the movie itself was worth the wait. Azumi tells the story of a young woman who, orphaned at an early age, joins a band of likewise orphaned children led by the mysterious Master. Tucked away on a remote mountain, he teaches them to be assassins in pursuit of an equally mysterious Mission. Once they reach adulthood, they are unleashed upon feudal Japan and much slashing ensues.

While this movie has many of the over-the-top touches that one expects from the this type of movie - pressurized blood geysers erupting from wounds, flashy costumes and big hair (especially on the men), gravity-defying leaps and somersaults - it also includes some moments of seriousness. Azumi and her fellow assassins contemplate the single-mindedness of their mission and indeed the question of their entire existence, as they are instructed to stand by while an entire village is slaughtered by bandits. As one of their party falls ill, the rest are pushed to abandon him to certain death rather than delay their journey. As assassins, they are not allowed to question their path; a target is presented, and they must kill without thought or emotion.

This is emphasized in the most memorable scene in the movie, which happens just as the young assassins are about to set forth on their journey. Their Master separates them into pairs based on who they care for most, and then sets them the task of killing their partner to prove that they can indeed kill without question. The young assassins, who moments before have been playfully romping like puppies, are suddenly transformed into killers. Azumi is paired with the man that she loves, and the look they exchange before their battle is almost more heartrending than the inevitable conclusion. That being said, the main reason for seeing this movie would still have to be the elaborate fight sequences.

When Azumi stops an arrow in mid-flight with her sword by splitting it down the middle, we couldn't care less about the moral tribulations of an assassin. We just want to see her kicking some more samurai butt. And enough butt is kicked during this film for me to give Azumi 4 out of 5 Golden Space Needles. Until next time, this is Seattle Maggie signing off!

Posted by karen at May 25, 2004 4:24 PM