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Persepolis (2007) PG-13 138min

September 18th, 2008 by Maxim · No Comments · 10,648 Views


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Persepolis (2007) PG-13Persepolis is a political film describing life in Iran over the past 40 years in the form of… animated story.

The plot: Marjane Satrapi, director and writer of the movie, uses the comic and now the cartoon to tell the story of her life (with some artistic liberties). She was born in 1969 in Terhan, and surrounded with loving family during the time when shah was de-facto an emperor or Iran. Then she describes the revolution and reaction that followed through the eyes of the child. Then her parents send her out of the country after she almost got arrested for wearing makeup – to Austria, which provided a completely different view of the world and new freedoms. But she longs to return back to Iran. But the country she goes back to is changed forever and is even more inhospitable.

The good: great story. What a great way to tell a complex story in a popular fashion then in a cartoon! It’s told through the experience of a girl – first a child and then a young woman living in Iran during the Revolution and the war, and later in Europe.

Persepolis (2007)It’s interesting that almost entire film is in Black&White – and even blood is black. Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Andrei Rublev” film was very similar to this in that respect – a B&W movie with the end of the movie shot in color. The film talks about horrors of life in Iran over a period of about 40 years – since the rule of the Shah to Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war. But it’s not a horror movie or a movie in a “concentration camp” genre, but a drama of the whole peoples during the times of oppression. Also worth noting the following - Satrapi was right about children being the mirror of the society, and in the film kids on the street are playing “torture” game and want to poke eyes of a “communisss” with nails, but the parents stop the game in time. The movie conveys the terror of living in Iran under constant fear of oppression by the Revolutionary Guard, but she still find a way to express herself as a woman and artistically, and even be humorous about it. Not every time, though. She tells the story of a raid on some party-goers when a boy escaping from the Guard fell from the roof and died.

The animation has anime feel to it. I loved several sequences, like when the girl was “house-hopping” or when she was watching Godzilla and when she explained in a few words how she turned from a girl into a woman. Beautiful dialogs and narrative. Great music. It’s very philosophical, and it’s so great that it find humor and is able to ridicule the religious nuts and customs and narrow mindedness of both Iranians and Europeans, particularly the lack of understanding of conditions in Iran by Europeans (by the way, on 9/11 there was a huge candlelight vigil in Tehran – people were sympathetic to the tragedy in U.S.). It was also amazing how the life changed for worse after the revolution - the Shah was a tyrant and he had some 3,000 people put in jail for political reasons. “Down with Shah”, everybody screamed. But Revolution only brought reactionists and more terror.

Also a great point in the movie is that it attacks the myth that people who escape from tyranny to a far-away land live there happily ever after and “should be thankful” for not being where they are from. “Persepolis” shows that exile brings its own problems. “I’m… ah.. French”, says Marjane. She struggled with her identity. She also shows that before the Islamic Revolution shah was a tyrant but he’d pretty much let people live their lives the way they liked (as long as they didn’t descented) and that Iran was indeed a modern society – see her being biggest fan of Bruce Lee and sing along to songs of ABBA and Iron Maiden!

The summary: a great political cartoon as well as a fascinating story of coming of age in two different worlds. A simple 2D B&W animation conveys the simplicity of the characters in the time of turmoil and makes it very accessible – in a way Michael Moore’s movies are very open and disarming with their satirical animated sequences. The movie will open your mind to Persian culture and life in other countries.

Memorable quotes:

Austrian student: Shit, I have to spend the whole 4 days with my family. Christmas is a stupid holiday invented by Americans. The only reason why Santa Clause wears red suit is because he’s Coca-Cola’s mascot.

Marjane: …there I met a baby-face anarchist and she invited me to the “anarchist party”, but the government had nothing to be afraid of. Those parties were mostly about drinking and eating sausages.

Marjane: I’m through with love. It’s just a petty bourgeois emotion.

Marjane’s father: United States was giving arms to both sides of the war… A million people have died for nothing… The last month of the war was the most horrible – Iraq was bombing Iran every day as if it wanted to wipe ot off the face of the Earth.

Marjane’s grandmother: What have I told you, Marjane? IN-TEG-Ri-TY!!!

Momo: Life is a void. When man realizes that he can no longer live, so he invents power games…
Marjane as a teenager: Bullshit! Life isn’t absurd! Some people give their lives for freedom. You think my uncle died for fun? Egotistical prick.

DVD special features:

  • The Hidden Side Of Persepolis
  • Behind the Scenes of Persepolis
  • Cannes Press-Conference Q&A
  • Selected Scene Commentaries
  • Animated Scene Comparisons
  • Previews

The cast: Marjane Satrapi (teenager & woman) – Chiara Mastroianni (you guessed right – the daughter of actors Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve) | Marjane as a child - Gabrielle Lopes | Marjane’s grandmother – Danielle Darrieux | Mr. Satrapi – Marjane’s father – Simon Abkarian | Marjane’s mother – Catherine Deneuve

The crew: Director – Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi | Story, Novel, Comic – Marjane Satrapi | Writers – Marjane Satrapi,  Vincent Paronnaud | Producers – Marc Jousset, Kathleen Kennedy, Xavier Rigault, Marc-Antoine Robert, Tara Grace | Original Music – Olivier Bernet | Editing – Stéphane Roche

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Rated 5/5 on Sep 18 2008
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Tags: Animation · Black and White · DVD · Drama · France · Movies

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