persepolismovieposter.jpgstarring Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve and Danielle Darrieux
written & directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including violent images, sexual references, language and brief drug content.

Based magnificently on Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novels of the same name, Persepolis is the story of an Iranian girl trying to grow up amidst the turmoil experienced by that country during the last 3 decades. The story begins in 1978, shortly before the Iranian revolution, and continues into the midst of the 1990s, when Marjane finally leaves her country behind for good. In-between is not just an account of the cultural, political and religious landscape of the nation during that time, but Marjane’s extremely personal story of development through terror, oppression and heartbreak.

This film is not for the faint of heart. These are 90 of the bleakest animated minutes you may ever experience, including the most affecting, even frightening, depiction of clinical depression I have ever seen. However, it is also an impressive undertaking. The art, which as I understand it is lifted directly from Satrapi’s original print source, is almost exclusively a stark black-and-white, and largely more expressionistic than not. There is tremendous artistic talent at work here, not only in the quality of the images themselves, but that they convey so much with so little.

Marjane is, above all, a very three-dimensional character that is both sympathetic and real. The author’s depiction of herself feels open and honest. Marjane is extremely courageous, but she can also be callous and selfish. She is obviously intelligent as well as talented, yet she makes many very foolish choices and mistakes. The depiction is deeply human, and the warmth we feel as a result extends as well to Marjane’s family, particularly the strong women from whom she is descended. Marjane’s grandmother is undoubtedly one of the best grandmother characters ever.

I have little more beyond that to say about it. The film is not so much an entertainment as an experience; a highly-stylized window onto a world that most of us have no experience of. I am pleased to find it playing (on, no doubt, an extremely limited basis) in the slightly less urban venues which I inhabit and frequent. If you find that to be the case near you, give it a chance. It deserves the attention, and a little extra business can’t help but be good for the sorry state of limited-release film distribution.

~ by Jared on February 22, 2008.

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