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Persepolis

A 2007 French animated film based on the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi.

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A gutsy and complex animated film like no other I have seen.

  • Jan 28, 2011
Rating:
+5
**** 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 both foreign animation and the world of animation in general. Here we have a film that makes many bold statements whilst covering quite a few tough subjects, yet it never looses its daring yet endearing appeal. It's so daring that it might even come across as depressing and boring to some. "Persepolis" is a unique animated gem indeed; but perhaps it's one that is only meant to be loved by a select few. I'm one of those select few. I absolutely loved "Persepolis", and it is what I believe to be one of the best films of 2007. Animation is always stunning and often times even a bit tedious (looking at you Dreamworks), but "Persepolis" sheds the clich├ęd skin that it should bear. It's a new kind of animated beast, and it even gives 2007's "Ratatouille" a run for its money. And I LOVED "Ratatouille". So that's saying something when another animated film from the same year can even have a chance at beating "Ratatouille" when it comes to winning the big animated Oscar. I don't know if "Persepolis" is better than "Ratatouille", but without comparing the two, I can tell you that it's absolutely positively worth your time. The film does to animation what hasn't been done before; give it a daring flavor that never goes overboard with content but never underachieves when it comes to style and substance. This is an animated film that has more than just unique and stunning visuals; it also has an emotional core. It's a film about a girl who grew up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and how such a catastrophic event affected the rest of her life. Some will call it depressing and empty; but you know what, I call it powerful and touching. As long as you can get past the often times intentionally grim style of the film, then you're in for a treat unlike any you've ever seen. If not for the story, then perhaps "Persepolis" is worth seeing for its visuals, which seem to have this unfailing ability to amaze. There's something about "Persepolis" that I just haven't seen before. Half of the fun will be finding out just what that is; and the rest will be thinking even more about the actual film. I was, as one would say, riveted.

Marjane Satrapi began her life as an eccentric young lass living in Iran during a great war known as The Islamic Revolution. To make matters worse, Marjane is sent to Austria due to her parents' fear of her capture. This doesn't do much good for poor Marjane. In fact; living through these harsh times affected her in her later years of life as a woman. We learn that she is confronted with depression and the inability to find true love in life, which renders her seemingly useless in life. For quite a bit of the film's story, we watch Marjane roam the streets looking for a single purpose; a meaning. Whether she finds one or not is up to you to discover; since it would be nigh a sin to reveal much more. Unlike most animated feature films, "Persepolis" has many layers of complexity. The film itself is highly thematic and relies on its dark, political tones to convey not a message; but a plot in its own. While these themes may not appeal to everyone's liking, "Persepolis" is an engaging experience. The story is well-told and features more than enough emotional energy. This is a splendid animated feature not only because it is darker and deeper than most animated films, but also because it dares to be different (in a good way). In spite of the depressing tone, "Persepolis" never gives in to grimness. It's an extremely entertaining animated package if you can dig the style in the first place, but it's one of those animated films that won't be admired by just anyone. I assume that most film-goers will like it for its visuals, while those who "get" the film will like it for the themes and talent involved in the story-telling. The premise combined with the fact that it's all animated sparks high expectations from me, and what do you know: it does not fail to impress. I loved watching the film as it delivers exactly what the themes and tone suggest; humanity and brilliant galore. This is good filmmaking and good story-telling. It's all a matter of how hard you try to appreciate it.

While I wasn't always paying attention to this aspect of the film, there's actually some good voice actors involved in the production; depending on what version of it you watch. To my knowledge, the original voice cast includes the voice talents of Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Denueve, Danielle Darrieux, and Simon Abkarin. However, in the "English" speaking track, Sean Penn and Iggy Pop both play characters, although I suggest you don't watch this version (if there's even a choice to begin with). While they aren't incredibly unique (or even well known to anyone outside of France), the voice actors still felt right for their parts. I don't suppose they are significant in making this film as special as it is; but then again this is a film meant to be absorbed by the senses. It's a beautiful work of art; and luckily, it actually gets a voice cast that I personally believe it deserves.

As I previously said; "Persepolis" is a film meant to be absorbed by the senses. It's a film that you can see, feel, taste, smell, and hear. As far as seeing the film goes, there's a handful of visual craft that went in to this particularly pretty looking picture. So much in fact that it's one of the most uniquely animated features I've ever seen. Most of the animation is done in black-and-white to give the film a noir feel, or some other similar vibe. I must say that I quite liked it. Feeling this film is also very much possible; as long as it is in an emotional sense. Tasting a film is like absorbing it; it has a distinctive flavor. "Persepolis" is one such film; abroad with visual effort and emotional undertones. Smelling the film...well, I'm not sure if this is particularly right, but I believe that the film sent out a lovely fragrance. I couldn't literally smell it, but I sure as hell wanted to believe that I could. And finally, hearing the film is quite a privilege. The voice cast is good and the soundtrack switches in tone so fast that it actually works; something that just doesn't happen too often. So what does it all accumulate to? Art? Entertainment? Beauty? All of the above? Yes, I'd have to say so. This is one of my all-time favorite animated films, and yet I've only just watched it. I know it's tough to pick and choose, but with films as good as these floating around, individual effort is not needed. The film kind of chooses for you. "Persepolis" will have a different impact on different people; but that doesn't take away from its entertainment and interest value. It's a pretty cool film if you give it the time of day, and I'm thinking that you should most definitely see it for whatever artistic merit it has embedded within. One of 2007's finest.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think a premise so intriguing could end up so beautiful. "Persepolis" is a completely engaging animated drama; a visually seductive and lovingly crafted cinematic trip. The animation is definitely worth looking at, while the story is also worth looking in to. Now, you may not like "Persepolis", but there's no denying that there's stuff to think about after you've finished watching it. I'd watch it several times just to get that kind of special feeling that it gave me; the kind that few animated films can. This may not be the most appealing animated film of all time, but it's always good to see someone TRYING to be unique...and succeeding. I love "Persepolis" not only because it's a great ANIMATED film, but also because it's just a wonderful film in general. Animated, in this case, has just about nothing to do with it. I mean, a film is a film. This is what art is; masterfully crafted and skillfully executed. "Persepolis" is therefore an unforgettable experience. I'd recommend it to most people; even those who I don't expect will like it. Who knows; maybe we'll both be surprised. Perhaps you will get lost in it like I did, or perhaps you will do as I expected you would and forget it. No matter, even those who are not particularly fond of the film will most likely find it mildly (or in my case, VERY) interesting. This is a complex kind of animation; one with a heart and a daring sense of honest vision. I wish all animated films went as far as this one did, even if I know some filmmakers would like to go even further. This isn't an animated film that exists to be funny or comical in tone; it is one meant to evoke sadness (but in a good sense) and the kind of priceless emotional value that few films can deliver. I love it. Here's to hoping that anyone reading this review will too.

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January 29, 2011
Again, I am with you on this one. I was stunned to see RATATOUILLE beat this in the Animated film award in the Oscars; but I understand. This was awesome! have you seen WALTZ WITH BASHIR? Israel's first animated film? Pretty good too.
 
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More Persepolis (2007 film) reviews
review by . March 02, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A TRIUMPH in Animation That is Powerful, Inspiring and Yet Funny!
   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 …
Quick Tip by . July 22, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Persepolis is so incredibly insightful and perceptive. It showed me a whole new world
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Its French so I loved it. I love the style of art in this film
review by . August 06, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
review by . July 02, 2008
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 …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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Wiki

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
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Details

Genre: Animation, Biography, Drama, Foreign, History
Release Date: May 23, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: June 24, 2008
Runtime: 1hr 35min
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
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