Made in: France
Directors: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
Based on the graphic novel by: Marjane Satrapi
Starring: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian
Synopsis: Marjane "Marji" Satrapi (voiced by Chiara Mastroianni) is a bright, precocious kid growing up in Iran during the tumultuous 70s. She's a fan of pop icons such as Bruce Lee and the BeeGees, and later rocks out to the sounds of Michael Jackson and Iron Maiden.
Witnessing first the Iranian Revolution and overthrow of the Shah, we see, through Marjane's eyes, life in her home city of Tehran thrown into turmoil once again when Islamic hard-liners take over. Also suviving the bloody war with Iraq, Marjane's only emotional refuge is with her mother and father (voiced by Catherine Deneuve and Simon Abkarian, respectively), and witty grandmother (voiced by Danielle Darrieux).
Outspoken in her questioning of Iran's strict moral codes, Marjane often finds herself in trouble with the religious authorities. Sometimes the run-ins are funny. Sometimes they're not.
Wanting her to have a better future, her parents send her to Vienna, Austria where Marjane gets her first real taste of life in the West. But living in a free society carries a host of other difficulties, and is only the beginning of her struggle to find her place among two vastly different cultures that have shaped her life.
The Good: The simple-looking animation of Persepolis underscores, yet powerfully expresses, the turbulence of the Iranian life from the 70s to the modern era. As a nearly autobiographical film, Marjane Satrapi's decision to employ animation works very well in bringing out the film's universal themes.
Although much of the story takes place in Iran, we don't get the sense that the events are happening in some exotic, faraway place. To this day, Iran exists with an aura of isolation, mystery, and inaccessibility.
But anyone who's experienced revolutions, repression, and war in other parts of the world will likely be able to identify much of the events that are discussed in this film. Even though it's technically a "cartoon," there's nothing cartoonish about the human emotions and struggles that Persepolis touches upon.
Overall, Persepolis is a very intimate film with a powerful blend of sadness, intensity, and humor.
The Bad: I felt the ending was a little weak. After following the often-harrowing adventures of Marjane, the story appears to end abruptly without a sense of closure. Is Marjane still despairing of her future? Or does she think life will finally change for the better?
Who would like this movie: Fans of animation, visual art, and foreign films will take an interest in this Oscar-nominated movie. You'll also enjoy this film if you have more artistic sensibilities, and if you like independent films that use more visually unorthodox methods of getting their points across.
The coming-of-age themes are not really mind-blowing or new, but are accomplished with heartfelt sincerity.
(3 out of 4 stars)
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