Forget your stereotypes of Iranians. `Persepolis' is an engagingly funny, sad, and poignant look at Merjane (Margie) (Chiara Mastrorianni) a girl who grows up in Tehran during the 1980's. Despite our possible preconceptions, Merjane surprisingly sports addidas sneakers, eats French fries, and yearns to shave her legs. The movie provides an absorbing history lesson, showing us the close up ramifications of people's lives behind the headlines, and tells a captivating story about a girl trying to belong and survive under dire circumstances.
Until all the world changing events, Merjane lets us know, "I led a peaceful, uneventful life as a child." Within the family, Merjan's uncle is kindly, yet communist. He's probably seen enough dictatorships and knows of only one way out. His ordeal is documented well enough. The most supportive in the family is Merjane's grandmother (Daniell Darrieux), whose affection and wisdom go a long way. Her parents (Catherine Deneuve and Simon Abkarian) are also good people who yearn for freedom, but know how to keep Merjane's best interests above their own.
During the time, we get a first person perspective on the Shah of Iran, his rise to power, the unrest that led to his exile, and his subsequent replacement by Ayatolla Kohmeni while Saddam Hussein rose to power in Iraq. From the narrative and the played out scenes, we get the pedestrian view of how these events came into fruition and their implications in everyday lives. Later, the Iran-Iraq War is particularly unsettling for her entire country. For her safety, Merjan flees her country and settles into Austria where she develops not so close friendships with the "Out" group, seeking refuge in the punk rock/alternative scene. With Merjane telling her story we get an intimate and often comic take on the angst of adolescence as well as what it's like to be a foreigner who's mostly misunderstood or ignored. She returns to her own country and her family, but the changes have made her an alien in her own neighborhood. Knowing the origin of this film, you can probably guess what happens next...
The animation is unique and interesting. Reminded that this film garnered a nomination for Best Animated Movie Oscar*, the extras show the French artists creating the film one frame (or picture) at a time. Done mostly in black and white, the backgrounds are stylish, but mostly stagnant with the characters remaining flowing for every scene. Oddly, it is only during the transportation scenes (like when she's waiting at the airport) when we are given the full color treatment. Inevitably, it must be that hope colors her consciousness every time there's a new transition in her life. I have one objection: I didn't like all the body fluids presented. I thought they kept it real enough without having to show all of that. Ironically, the blood made a difference. We need it as evidence; it provides an unflinching detail of the ordeal(s) at hand and respects all the people involved.
Our funny bones are tickled several times as our colorful rebel resorts to splendid retorts to zealous extremists ("Girls who reveal themselves will burn in hell," says one educator), and we are served some truly funny thoughts about her body changes during puberty and the fallout of dating. 'Persepolis' has many simple joys entailed upon its viewing: A fascinating first-person history lesson, an absorbing story, and a splendid protagonist.
(Not since Art Spiegelman's groundbreaking 'Maus' have I seen a similar graphic novel treatment give this much of a wollop.)
*`Ratatouille' won the Oscar for Best Animated Film from 2007.
**** out of **** Animated films are always so interesting, no only because of their often times thrilling visuals, but also because of their ability to intoxicate us in their whimsy. I thought that I knew what a great animated film was, but upon watching "Persepolis" I can officially say that I know. This is one of the best animated films I have ever seen. Emotionally resonant, timely in its narrative, and beautiful in its power. This is indeed a very artistic triumph for … more
What I really appreciate about Foreign cinema is its innate ability to make the simplest of concepts powerful without stooping to “dressing up” gimmicks that Hollywood is so prone to do. Another medium in filmmaking that is seen very differently in Japan, Korea and even the continent of Europe is the animated medium; while most of American filmmakers see animation as a form only suited for kids or the “young at heart” with concepts so formulaic just so they … more
Persepolis is a brilliantly constructed and beautifully animated film about a young girl growing up in Tehran during the Islamic revolution. Based on an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, her story is a sad one: of a young woman who cannot feel at home in an increasingly oppressive state (who digs punk rock and heavy metal and can't stand conformity) but feels out of place anywhere else. At the same time, the author is clever and self-aware and never lets the story sink to the level … more
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A fascinating and wholly unexpected take on Iran’s Islamic revolution beginning in the 1970s, Persepolis is an enthralling, animated feature about a spirited young woman who spends her life trying to deal with the consequences of her nation’s history. Based on an autobiographical comic book by Marjane Satrapi, the story concerns Marji (voiced as a teenager and woman by Chiara Mastroianni), whose natural fire and precociousness are slowly dampened by the rise of religious extremists. Marji grieves over the imprisonment and execution of a beloved uncle, then begrudgingly adapts to ever-tightening rules about dress, social mores, education for women, and expectations about marriage and divorce. Along the way, her grandmother (Danielle Darrieux) and mother (Catherine Deneuve) help keep Marji grounded during her rebellious teens and encourage her to find life beyond Iran’s borders, a decision that proves both a blessing and curse. An unique window onto a crucial chapter of 20th century history, Persepolis is graphically engaging with its black-and-white, bold lines and feeling of repressed energy, fit to burst. The emotional content is so strong that after awhile, one almost forgets the film is a cartoon. Satrapi co-wrote the screenplay and co-directed the film along with animator Vincent Paronnaud.--Tom Keogh