Entries Comments

Movie Review: Persepolis

Written and directed by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi from the graphic novel by Satrapi
Sony Pictures Classics

By rule I’m almost always suspicious of a well-reviewed, unconventionally-animated film, mainly because the great reviews focus on the animation itself.  Some very strange, murky plotlines emerge from this medium, especially in the world of anime.  As much as I enjoyed the visuals of Paprika from earlier this year, I’m still scratching my head about the story.

Persepolis concerns the Islamic Revolution in the late seventies and its effects into the nineties as told by Marjane Satrapi (Chiara Mastroianni).  She’s growing up in Iran under the much-hated Shah, who has imprisoned and killed those who are opposed to his regime, including Marjane’s grandfather.  Still, they seem to have at least some freedom; at this point there’s no need for women to abide by a strict dress code, and some influences of the West are commonplace.

But the fight for freedom extends beyond that, of course, including being able to oppose your government.  Marjane’s family: her mother (the legendary Catherine Deneuve), father (Simon Abkarian), and especially grandmother (Danielle Darrieux), all instill in her the idea of democracy, and while working for the country they secretly want to bring the establishment down.  Other parts of their family pay the price for their beliefs, including her uncle.

As the Islamic Revolution introduces a stricter government, and Iraq starts bombing the place, and even the smallest of freedoms are taken away, Marjane speaks a little too much of her mind and her parents send her to Vienna.  It’s here she learns French, becomes a beautiful young woman, has her first dalliances with love, but ultimately being an outsider because of her heritage.  As her independent spirit grows, the more obstacles are thrown her way, especially when she wants to go back to Iran.

From that synopsis, you might not be able to tell that the movie can be very charming and funny.  There’s serious business to discuss here, too, and the movie doesn’t shy away from the issues.  But it’s great to see Marjane interact with the ever-changing world with such vigor.  Watching Marjane is like seeing Juno again, and that can only be a good thing.  Also of note is Marjane’s grandmother, who is a more complex version of the “foul-mouthed granny” that you see in lesser comedies.

The animation is simple but filled with life and character.  It will be interesting to see if this gets a foreign language nomination and a Best Animated Feature nod (probably running against Ratatouille at the very least).

Persepolis wasn’t on the radar for breaking into my year-end list, and now it is.  2007 has been a very good year.


Comment from Sam Loomis
Time: December 26, 2007, 7:49 pm

2007 has been a hell of a year when you look back at it, and now that I’m starting to work on my lists I realize that can be said from both ends of the spectrum. Sadly, being in my neck of the woods, I will probably not get a chance to see either this or “There Will Be Blood” for a few weeks, so they will not be on my year end salutes and boos, but I’m sure both are exactly what you say they are.

2007 has a lot of achievements that deserve to be bestowed upon it; it will be interesting reading what all of the critics thought of it; of course I will be the only one who is right; the Projectionist will follow a close second.

Write a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.