LOS ANGELES – Three years after its release in Japan, the popular action film “Azumi” premiered in Hollywood this week, with its director and producer walking the red carpet.
Crowds lined up outside the Egyptian Theater in Los Angelese as director Ryuhei Kitamura and producer Mataichiro Yamamoto were greeted with applause during a prescreening reception inside the historic theater.
The film is based on the “manga” comic by Yu Koyama, “Azumi” and grossed about $7.5 million in Japan. Its popularity inspired the 2005 sequel “Azumi 2: Death or Love.”
“I’m very happy. It’s been three years since I finished this movie, which is quite a long time, but it’s good to hold the release here. This kind of thing doesn’t happen often to a Japanese movie,” Kitamura said.
The 37-year-old filmmaker from Osaka said he grew up watching Hollywood films and understands what appeals to U.S. audiences.
Kitamura said he and producer Yamamoto created “Azumi” for an international audience with the hopes of rekindling the popularity of Japanese action films.
“We wanted to prove that there are still cool Japanese action movies. Back in the 60s and 70s there were lots and lots of samurai sword-fighting, cool movies, but they haven’t made that kind of movie recently,” he said.
Yamamoto was encouraged by the crowds at the Hollywood premiere and the reception “Azumi” received from fans at recent screenings in New York and the Comic-Con International convention in San Diego.
“Usually we receive kind of quiet reactions, but we’ve gotten exciting reactions this time,” Yamamoto said. “I hope this will spread to Los Angeles and the entire United States.”
“Azumi” is the story of orphans in 19th century Japan trained to become assassins by an aging samurai master. The film stars Aya Ueto in the title role of the sword-wielding prodigy and Jo Odagiri as her nemesis Bijoumaru. It features slick, fast-paced combat scenes and a pulsing modern soundtrack.
“I liked it quite a bit. It was honest entertainment, not like some of the more Hollywood films. And there was also pure emotion and not just action,” said Jeremie Damoiseau, who attended the premiere.
The 27-year-old film school graduate from France preferred the characters in “Azumi” to those in Kitamura’s gangster zombie movie “Versus,” released in 2000.
Noel True, another audience member, was also impressed by the film.
“I loved it. I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I love women in action films,” said True, an actress from Los Angeles.
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