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Alexandra Nicole Hulme,
he travels to Aladdin's village, identified as being near the border with China, where he enlists Aladdin's help by pretending to be his long-lost uncle and offering to leave his wealth to Aladdin. At one point, the Magician character tells the story of his travels to China, India and Persia and we see a montage of these adventures and it's kind of interesting because of the way it invokes other cultures of the era. There is some unnecessary padding throughout as characters break into songs that do nothing but tell parts of Once upon a time, somewhere in Africa, a local magician dreamed of owning the Magic Lamp. Thanks to a Magic Ball he learned that the Lamp could be found in an Asian village and that only the innocent hand of a young person could snatch it. He traveled to the place, a village called "Three Hill City", close to the Chinese border. There lived Aladin, a boy who could help him to grab the Lamp. Which he did. But what was not planned is that Aladin kept the Lamp for ... Written by
No animation masterpiece, but a film of simple beauty and haunting music that would appeal to any child ...
1969 was a very special year that saw the release of two of my fondest childhood films: "Tintin and the Temple of Sun" and "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp". And like the 'Tintin' movie, I guess I can say about 'Aladdin' that it's so rooted in my childhood that I can't give it an objective review.
Indeed, watching "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp" is like listening to a beautiful lullaby; only rather than making me sleep like a baby, it wakes up the inner child in me, this little guy who didn't need special effects, 3D animation or superheroes to get thrilled. Speaking for all the kids of my generation and some older, all we needed was a simple story, a good hero, a great villain and a few catchy songs, which "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp" delivers. It's a fitting coincidence that the film was made by a director named Jean Image, the animation looks rather clumsy and rudimentary, but the images, the use of colors and lightness is absolutely dazzling and magnificently communicates the magic of the immortal "One Thousand and One Nights" tales.
I know this is the first aspect that would strike the new viewers; the film is not Disney material, not even by the 60's standards. It's probably condemned to live in the shadow of the 1992' Disney version, but wouldn't any European animated-feature anyway? And as much as I love the 'blue Genie' version, I can't neglect the fact that it was specifically designed to primarily appeal to an American audience, contrarily to "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp", which even featured a preeminent character wearing the Islamic veil, I'm speaking of Aladdin's mother. Today's audiences would be puzzled by it, but from my adult perspective, I admire the guts of the animators in their recreation of an Islamic setting.
I always admire the fact that the film remained faithful to the literary classic. No name has been altered, it's not Princess Jasmin but Princess Badr-el-Boudour (would you believe I've got an aunt who was named after her?), Aladdin is not an orphan: he lives with his mother, the widow of Mustafa the tailor. No exuberant genie, no animal sidekick (apart from two talking birds as comic reliefs), no princess serving as an excuse for some feminist undertones, no sultan looking like one of Snow White's dwarfs, it's the real story without the obligatory archetypes travestied for a modern audience. Again, I loved the Disney version, but I only hope it would never be used as an excuse to diminish the merit of Jean Image's film on a technical level, because at least, it doesn't compromise the story for the sake of some audience's expectations.
And why should it anyway? When you think of the tale, by itself, you realize that the material of "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp", behind the fantasy, carries a great coming-to-age aspect: Aladdin gets the lamp through his courage but uses magic to marry the princess, then when the lamp is stolen, he must prove his value without the help of the Genie, to deserve her hand. It's about having our lives guided by mysterious forces, call it fate, but it's also a powerful lesson about deserving, about earning through action. The center of gravity is Aladdin, and any child can easily identify with him. On the other side, the antagonist is the Evil Magician from Africa who wants the lamp to control the world. Yet, despite the usual vile traits, he can be totally hilarious. After all, laughs are still required in a children film.
And when it comes to laughs, there's a level of slapstick in "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp" that even the Disney version couldn't match. The way the magician rides his blue horse, when he hangs on the moon, the film cleverly exploits its animation-style to afford some gags that would be impossible in a more seriously made film. How refreshing to see a film that takes its story seriously but loosen up a bit in the Animation department. The background characters, the framing, everything is basic, but it really works on a comical way and maybe more. The film trusts its story enough not to be ashamed of the drawing.
Finally, you have a hypnotically haunting Oriental mood, and the songs have nothing to envy to a Disney film, three songs: the hero's, the villain's, and the romantic one, all catchy and unforgettable. I can't even describe the effect the love song has on me, whenever I listen to it, I feel like being 5 or 6 in this age where love only consisted on proving our value to the girl we love, taking her hand, giving her a rose, with no other innuendo. Whatever flaws you can find in the Animation, they are immediately redeemed by the quality of the music and the writing: on that level, the film will please your ears as much as your eyes.
Now, I doubt the utility of this review. I checked out it would be the second posted on IMDb, I'm not sure today's kids would be eager to see it, hell, I don't even think French kids would be aware of this film's existence. But if by any chance, you read this review, forget all about your references in animation, and give it a try. Chances are that, if you didn't grew up with the film, it might not have an impact on you, but if you have a little child, show him the film and you won't be disappointed by his reaction. It has the kind of innocence that no child can forget, well, I didn't anyway, and even at thirty, I'm still mesmerized by its simple beauty and haunting music.
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