Scarlett (2016)

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Scarlett: Directed by Josiah David Warren. With Josiah David Warren, Chloe Hurst, Stephen Baldwin, Mary Becquet. Scarlett is the dramatic love story of two talented architects, Chase and Scarlett. Their dreams for the future are abruptly ended when Scarlett is diagnosed with cancer. As her life ebbs away, Scarlett struggles with her faith and God’s love for her. How could a loving God cut short her life and plans? Chase helps her overcome her fears and doubts as they fight the battle together. Living next door to them is a young woman named Mia who is fighting for her life and the life of her unborn child. After leaving a mental institution where she was dropped as a child, Mia fell prey to an abusive marriage. Now she has nowhere to go and no one to help. She thinks. When Chase hears the sounds of domestic violence coming from next door, he intervenes to bring help and Mia discovers that God has heard her prayers. With a surprise twist at the end, the three lives of Scarlett, Chase and Mia intertwine and bring hope to the hopeless, peace to the battle, and beauty for ashes.

“Iu0026#39;m not too familiar with Japanese cinema – especially the Chambara genre – but I had come across director Ryuhei Kitamurau0026#39;s cult favourite Versus a couple of weeks before viewing this flick, so I wasnu0026#39;t expecting great things. Versus, which Kitamura wrote and directed, was simply a collection of mindless gore sequences lacking any kind of storyline, that was, frankly, one long bore. Sometimes, the term u0026#39;cultu0026#39; seems to be a euphemism for u0026#39;popular with undemanding teen horror-fiendsu0026#39;.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eLuckily, Kitamura handed over the writing duties to Yu Koyama, creator of the Manga comic script upon which itu0026#39;s based, and producer Mataichiro Yamamoto, and I only hope Kitamura steers clear of his lap-top from now on, because Azumi is an absolute pearl of a movie that seems to revel in the mythical warrior story it relates. True, there is a huge amount of bloodletting (the death toll runs into the multiple-hundreds, and we get to see them all in vibrant in-your-face bloody colour), but there is also a reasonable – if a tad simple and clichéd – storyline, and, for this type of movie, a lot of attention is given to character development.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eJapanese teen-star Aya Ueto plays the eponymous heroine, an orphaned waif rescued from the roadside by a master warrior and his small entourage of equally waif-like protégés.  Hidden from the world until they reach their late teens, this unlikely u0026#39;familyu0026#39; is trained in the art of swordplay by their master as preparation for their mission to rid the country of three troublesome warlords who are committing wholesale slaughter throughout the land.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eHalf of these orphans are killed within fifteen minutes of the opening credits, and the manner in which their deaths are contrived serves notice that this is to be no ordinary mindless action flick. By subjecting the survivors to such a horrifying ordeal, the writers slickly manoeuvre the audience into identifying with the previously nondescript bunch in a matter of minutes, where less accomplished writers would have needed half-a-dozen scenes to achieve anything approaching the same result and probably convey little of the emotional impact created by Koyama and Yamamoto.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eUeto, while looking far too cute to be a fierce warrior, gives a good account of herself. Kitamura even plays on this by having a rival assassin enthusing over her cuteness as they do battle – and moments before she runs him through with her sword. Ueto may make an unlikely assassin, but – crucially – she doesnu0026#39;t make an unbelievable one. u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThis film is crammed with memorable characters and scenes: the fey but deadly bad guy, Bijomaru (Jo Odagiri, looking like an undernourished Phil Oakey, c.1983), decked out in flowing white robes and carrying a red rose, who giggles with glee when fighting a worthy foe, and swishes his sword distractedly through the long grass as he observes the effect of the latest wound he has inflicted upon his adversary; Saru, the warlordu0026#39;s sidekick, possessor of an astounding hairdo and a habit of uttering monkey noises as he fights, and Azumi herself, who is never just a cipher, but who questions the validity of her mission at every turn, and resists, futilely, the life that has been mapped out for her. Cinematographer Takumi Furuyau0026#39;s kinetic camera-work is also worth mentioning – especially the astounding sequence in the climactic battle between Azumi and Bijomaru, during which the camera vertically rotates 360 degrees around the action.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eAzumi is a real barnstormer of a movie; great fun to watch, and deserving of a much larger audience than it has received in the West.”

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