Film review by: Witney Seibold
“Persepolis” is probably the most lively and funny film you’re going to see about the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It’s also probably one of the only animated films you’ll see on the subject. It’s also one of the better films of 2007.
Based on Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical comic, “Persepolis” starts when our heroine (Gabrielle Lopes) is but a lass, and the Shah has fallen, an event that doesn’t mean upheaval or revolution for a young girl, but more a chance to make fun of peers, and roll her eyes when her parents begin to talk politics. Of course, it’s not long before people she knows, like her uncle, are being imprisoned and executed by the new regime. Marjane is a precocious and outspoken little girl, who grows into a lippy teen, a dariong and dangerous thing to be in Islamic Iran. By the time she is 13 (now played by Chiara Mastroianni), now having to wear a veil everywhere, she is spirited out of the country by her fearful parents (Simon Akbarian and Catherine Deneuve) and sassy grandmother (Danielle Darrieux). She spends her formative years in Vienna where she learns about the freedoms of punk rock, the sting of Eurotrash whining, the greater sting of heartbreak (her first boyfriend turns out gay, her second, in an amusing sequence, grows increasingly ugly post break-up). As she matures, she realizes that her true identity still lies in Iran, so she returns and attempts to bravely forge a path.
If the film has a flaw, it’s that it does indeed come across as episodic. But then, telling one’s own life story usually boils it down to a series of episodes, and Satrapi had an extraordinary set of episodes to relate. Otherwise, “Persepolis” is an energetic and moving tale of maturity, discovering one’s own identity among a myriad of choices, and, ultimately, having our options narrowed as we settle on who we are.
The film is animated to look exactly like the graphic novel on which it is based, so the characters are all in black & white, have big round eyes and rudimentary faces. The very simplicity of the art, though, seems to add to the characters’ depth. In an age when computer programmers are figuring out ways to add more realistic hair to their talking animal CGI monstrosities, “Perseoplis” proudly comes through as showing how story, character, and creativity can outshine computer skill.
It’s a sweet film, it’s a meaningful film, it’s a funny film. “Persepolis” is quite good.