They often say â€˜a change will do you goodâ€™ â€“ but sometimes a change for the better can actually turn out to be for the worse. Critics have been raving about this gem since it premiered at Cannes in May, shaped with care and originality, boasting nice speaking voiced perfs from veterans Catherine Deneuve and Danielle Darrieux and a Chiara Mastroianni who beautifully expresses impassioned rage against the machine, Marjane Satrapiâ€™s (and co-director/animator/writer/cartoonist Vincent Paronnaud) can do no wrong with this heartfelt, biographical story that contains an experience with so much universal and cultural commonality that not one viewer watching this film will be left indifferent. Persepolis wonâ€™t emotionally short change its viewers â€“ the coming-of-age tale works analogously with weighty issues such as intolerance, racism, sexism and fundamental human rights – all subjects that are thoroughly examined in an auspiciously-designed blue print â€“ or in this case, an imaginative black & white ink jet print. Anyone still unconvinced of the power of the animated narrative will most definitively want to check out what this import is capable of doing.
Lucky are those who come into watching this film having read Satrapiâ€™s four-graphic novel account of growing up Iranian and growing up European. Beginning with her obliviousness in dire matters as a young child (this portion of the timeline occurs during the Iranian Islamic Revolution and amorously describes her family tree) to a chain-smoking â€œFrenchâ€ teenager discovering that Punk is not Dead, this chaptered-out template works in both contextualizing viewers unfamiliar with what the Ayatollah actually was and helps in detailing the novelistsâ€™ humoristic take on her so-called existence. Politically speaking, this holds up better than your average Hollywood fare that mimics human rights violation atrocities – here the city of Tehran is made out to look like just like one many backward societies on this planet â€“ a repressive state where fear makes some people into cowards, but also a place with pockets of people who find a funny side to even the most absurdist of circumstances. Here the funny bone is the ultimate act of defiance and if only there were more â€œgirl powerâ€ portraits like this yearâ€™s this textbook example and fellow Iranian Jafar Panahiâ€˜sOffside, then perhaps the world, for both men and women, would be just a bit better off.
Come Oscar time, Persepolis might just piss on Pixarâ€™s parade. Crafted with affection and not layers of CGI stuff, the hand-drawn heroine is presented in two tonalities – strong use of shadows suggests hints of German Expressionism and explores the darker sides of tyranny, while an extremely comical Rockyâ€™s Eye of the Tiger montage with Mastroianni purposely tagging on a terrible signing voice adds a genuine realness to drawn images. The films strength is the tonality best felt in narrativeâ€™s final stroke – tough decisions in the form of a one-way plane ticket occur everyday and hopefully a return ticket is not too far off the horizon.
Viewed in original French language. Reviewed on September 8th at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.