Connect with us


Persepolis | Review

Paint it Black: Satrapi demonstrates sharp prowess in filmic translation of autobiography.

They often say ‘a change will do you good’ – 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 Satrapi’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 won’t emotionally short change its viewers – 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 – 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 Satrapi’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 “French” 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 novelists’ 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 – 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 “girl power” portraits like this year’s this textbook example and fellow Iranian Jafar Panahi‘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 Pixar’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 Rocky’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 narrative’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.

Rating 4 stars

Continue Reading
You may also like...

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

Click to comment

More in Reviews

To Top