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The black-and-white animation, highly stylized and two dimensions which
doesn't attempt to render the usual cartoon 3-D, summarizes in quick,
intelligent flashes, often impressionistic, growing up in Teheran and
Vienna from a highly personal point of view. The narrative is as
original as the art. The narrator, Marjane Satrapi, only daughter of an
educated Teheran couple, first sketches in briefly how the Shah first
came to power,only to lose it and have it replaced by the fanatical
religious regime of today. Educated in a French school, she and her
family are rapidly alienated from the so-called revolution; she is sent
to Vienna to continue her education, falls in with a group of punks and
eventually returns both depressed and disillusioned to Teheran where,
with other university students, she must submit to the rule of extreme
The story covers a great deal of ground from the point of view of a young pro-Western culture radical, and is told with humor and intelligence. She laughs at herself as much as at the semi-lunatic Guards of the Revolution.
Satrapi's hold on reality is much strengthened under the influence of her highly honest grandmother who teaches her not co compromise, not to betray and not to give in.
This is no fairy tale with flying horses and beautiful princesses, but a serious, unsentimental and sometimes brutally honest film covering, among other events, the story of the millions of Iranians and Iraqis who died in a now forgotten seven year war around the Persian Gulf.
...in fact, there is nothing average about this film. Traditionally
animated in black and white flashbacks, it tells the story of a
French-speaking woman's childhood and young adulthood in Tehran, Iran,
and in Vienna during the 1980s and '90s.
Marjane Satrapi grew up in a family of revolutionaries against the Shah's regime and the Islamic government that subsequently took hold, and the film literally illustrates her feelings and thought processes as a little girl, following her as the government control in Iran got more and more strict. When her parents insist she leave the country, we also see her struggling to deal with adolescence and missing her beloved family; when she returns, she is also coping with the increasing repression of her freedoms as a woman. Most of all, you see her own personal conflict as she tries to stay true to herself.
This movie beautifully balances both the historic and personal issues and pulls the threads together into a compelling narrative, made a bit quirky by the style of presentation, resulting in work that is altogether touching. Along with intelligence and humor, a deep and strong sense of truth infuses every part of this film, making it even stronger. One of my only qualms was the feeling that it ended somewhat abruptly without much of a conclusion.
Overall, though, it was fantastic - definitely worth watching.
Persepolis is one of the most thoughtful, poignant and original films I
have ever seen. Hang on, "poignant" and "thoughful", an animated movie
(and based on a comic-book, on top of that)? Exactly, because
coincidentally Persepolis also happens to be the first really adult
"cartoon" I've had the pleasure to watch (Waking Life and A Scanner
Darkly don't count, as they were filmed with real actors first, and
subsequently modified in post-production). For all their good
intentions, the likes of Dreamworks and Pixar always have an eye for
what the little ones want to see, while The Simpsons, despite the
occasional "mature" storyline (basically Homer and Marge's sex life),
contains nothing a 12-year old isn't supposed to see. As for Family Guy
and South Park, they might be aimed at grown-ups with their merciless
satire and, in the case of the latter series, explicit language, but
are made with an almost puerile sense of joy which prompts younger kids
to watch them in secret. Persepolis, on the other hand, deals with
adult themes in a serious, unpretentious way. So yes, it is an animated
film. Yes, it is based on a comic-book. And yes, there is the
occasional neat movie reference (Rocky III being the most memorable
one). That doesn't mean it's a kids' movie, though; it just means the
picture was made with a particular style because it was the most
effective way to tell this specific story.
And what is so special about the story? Well, it is an account of what is going on in contemporary Iran, a topic that is more relevant today than it's ever been before. And the extra layer of poignancy derives from the fact that co-director Marjane Satrapi experienced every single event in the film. After moving to France to avoid the increasingly oppressive political situation that had developed in Teheran (which the ancient Greeks called Persepolis, hence the movie's title), she published her autobiography in the form of a graphic novel, which immediately became a cult phenomenon. With the help of artist Vincent Paronnaud, the stylized drawings have become a motion picture which has already conquered critics and won several awards (the Jury Prize in Cannes being one of them).
The film's strict adherence to the book's style makes for simple but powerful viewing: the simple pictures ensure the story doesn't need to be filtered, but can be understood right away, while the use of black and white provide the images with a strength that would otherwise be missing. A good example is a scene depicting a demonstration against the despotic regime in Iran and the subsequent shooting of one of the protesters, whose body is left lying on the ground: as his blood starts to flow, the corpse almost merges with the environment, giving the shot (pun not intended) an emotional relevance it wouldn't have, had the whole thing been in color. The choice of animation proves to be particularly effective in a most unusual choice for this kind of film, namely fantasy sequences: there is a hilarious moment, for instance, when Marjane, during a stay in Vienna, looks back on her disappointment in love and sees her ex-boyfriend as a depraved freak; live-action would have ruined that scene, undoubtedly. As it is, however, it comes off not as a bizarre formal experiment, but a fundamental tool for understanding the heroine's psychology.
That said, it should also be noted that Persepolis isn't just a bold take on the difficulties in the Middle East. As seen in Clint Eastwoood's Iwo Jima double bill, the line between "heroes" and "villains" is very thin, and the film never misses the opportunity to show how bad our own society can be: Marjane ends up hating Europe more than her home-country, and at the beginning a flashback shows the British government's role in manipulating Iranian politics for money's sake. Incidentally, the latter scene is depicted as a puppet show, providing a new, fresh angle: what sets truth apart from fiction?
Persepolis works because it handles an uncomfortable subject with grace, using a simple but constantly effective storytelling technique and never once pandering to audience expectations with the usual 'toon gimmicks (even the casting proves that: except for Catherine Deneuve, who plays the low-key role of Marjane's mother, there are no famous voices in the feature). It sticks to traditions and stretches the medium at the same time, showing that animation is no longer a "children's genre" and therefore delivering a new way to look at film-making and its possibilities. For this reason, and several more, it is one of the best pictures of 2007.
I came out of this movie feeling as if I knew Marjane Satrapi. The way in which the story is told is fantastic - it really is as if you're reading her journal. As she grows up from being a young girl to an adult, at each age the story is told with a corresponding maturity, and highlighting things which seem like very personal memories. As a young girl, the stories she is told are very black and white, and as she gets older the complexity increases, which is exactly what you would expect. Although there is lots of political activity, she makes fun of herself and highlights her own shortcomings as much as she highlights the repressive elements in her homeland. By telling of her own experiences it really is extremely easy to see how so much of it is common to a whole generation of Iranians. Her love of her family and her country came across very strongly, and you really felt as if she had laid herself bare. A moving and entertaining movie as much as it is educational about post-1979 Iran.
This is a marvelous film. The voice actors in French are superb; I'm
not sure whether it will translate in an English dub. The animation is
charming; you forget that it's mostly black and white, and remember
only how beautiful it is. It is both bleak and hilarious, chilling and
human. The "Eye Of The Tiger" scene is awesome for being so
amateurishly sung in heavily accented English and only just in key. I
learned a great deal about modern Iranian history, and relived a great
deal of childhood and adolescence (albeit not in a sophomoric way).
I saw it at a free screening with about 6 other people before it was released, but I will be paying to see it again and dragging as many people as I can to see it with me. If you're reading this, I'd drag you to see it, too. It's a GREAT film, one that deserves all the awards it can garner, and not just as an animated film, but as a brilliant movie that just happens to be animated.
Persepolis tells the amazing story of a young girl growing up in Iran
around the time of the Islamic Revolution. Marjane Satrapi does a
wonderful job of bringing her story to life and drawing the viewer into
her what it was to grow up during a time of political revolution. Using
a unique style of animation, that closely follows the style of the
graphic novel, the audience is pulled into a world that is much
different than the world they are used to.
Marjane's story is often times humorous and often times heart breaking without resorting to heavy handed sentimentalism that is often seen in Hollywood movies. There were times that I laughed out loud during the movie, particularly the "Eye of the Tiger" sequence which had me in stitches. Other times during the film I had to wipe a tear from my eye. I won't spoil any of those moments for anyone, but there were parts of the film that left me crushed.
The characters in the story were all very interesting and all seemed very real. I loved watching Marjane grow from a child to an adult and seeing how she dealt with struggles as extreme as a revolution and as simple as the end of a relationship. Most of the supporting characters were interesting as well and extremely well thought out. The most memorable of the side characters though, would have to be Marjane's grandmother. She almost acted as Marjane's moral compass throughout the film and in most cases she did it with a great cynicism and humor that only someone who has lived through so much could have.
As an American I will probably never know what it is like to live in a state of such political oppression as the one depicted in the film. It is an extremely hard thing to even imagine what people go through during such political struggles. However, one of the things that makes this movie unique is that a lot of it is told from the point of view of a child that does not really understand the politics of what is going on around her. This really helped draw me into the movie. Since I do not understand what it is like to be in the situation, having the story told from the point of view of someone that doesn't really grasp the enormity of the events unfolding around her really helped to bring me into the story. It was very helpful in trying to comprehend the scale of what was happening in the movie, not that I claim to totally comprehend what this young girl must have gone through.
The animation style of the film is definitely interesting and unique. It is a lot different than anything I have seen before and I really enjoyed the style that was used. The more simplistic animation that was used definitely worked well with the story being told from the point of view of a child. The child in the story could not totally grasp all the details of what was going on during the revolution and having a less detailed style of animation definitely helped emphasize this. Also, having a style of animation that was so different than what audience are used to also helped emphasize that we were viewing a world that was, in many ways, much different than our own.
Overall I really enjoyed the film and it is one that I may eventually want to see again. I really would like to read the graphic novels that it was based on and probably even a few of the other graphic novels written by Marjane Satrapi. I think she is a wonderful talent and I hope she continues to make such interesting films, perhaps bringing some of her other graphic novels to the big screen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Iranian expatriate Marjane Satrapi's 'Persepolis' graphic novel series
(2000-2003) recounts her life to age 24, when she left Iran with her
family's blessing for the last time and went to live in France (1994).
Collaborating with her Paris studio-mate, cartoonist and video artist
Vincent Paronnaud and a stellar French cast, Sagtrapi has successfully
transferred her drawings and story to a 95-minute black-and-white
animated film. Chiara Mastroianni is the voice for the adolescent and
young adult Marjane; Chiara's real-life mother Catherine Deneuve does
Marjane's mother and veteran French star Danielle Darrieux is the voice
of Marjane's feisty, outspoken, and totally irreverent grandmother. (An
English-language version featuring Sean Penn, Iggy Pop, and Gena
Rowlands apparently will be released later.) Word on the street is that
this more handmade French animated film, now in selected US theaters,
may give Pixar's slick 'Ratatouille' a run for the Best Animation Oscar
Satrapi, who told this story first in autobiographical comic strips that became best-selling books, grew up in a progressive ruling-class Tehran family. An uncle with whom she was close had been to Leningrad to study Marxism-Leninism. As a little girl she picked up the radicalism, and had some of her grandmother's genes for outspokenness. Shifting allegiances and roles quickly, she soon gave up supporting the Shah and walked around the house calling for revolution. She tried on ideas constantly, posing as a prophet, then a dictator. God and Karl Marx, whom she imagines appearing to her in her bedroom, vie with each other for her affections. Her communist uncle is hopeful that the revolution will grow democratic; but while he is imprisoned and tortured by CIA-trained jailers under the Shah, he is executed under the mullahswhom, strangely, the narrator says little about. (Khomeini is not depicted.) All the girls must take the veil. But Marji, already an avid collector of bootleg heavy metal and punk tapes, remains an obstreperous girl who in class outspokenly challenges the pious lies of her chador-wearing teachers.
Iran's war with Iraq causes terrible disruption: the house next door is destroyed. For her safety in this desperate moment for the country (1983), Marji's parents send her to Vienna, where she attends a French school, as she has all her life. Though she eventually becomes part of a group of misfit students, Vienna is a hard and lonely time for the girl. She grows up physically (which happens in seconds in the animationthe film's most eye-catching sequence) and enters love problems: first with a boy who turns out to be gay; then one who sleeps with another girla betrayal that makes her so despondent she becomes homeless and ill and almost dies. She returns to an Iran where the upper class is living a double life of secret alcohol parties and music. Attending university in Tehran she meets a man named Reza and marries him--but the union is a mistake, which her grandmother cheerfully dismisses. "The first marriage is just practice," she says. A bored, doodling psychiatrist listens to her troubles, tells her she's depressed, and gives her some pills--which seem to make her more depressed.
Finally the time comes when Marjane is in effect ordered by her family to leave the country for her own good. She goes to France, where she has remained ever since. That's the end of the book and the film.
Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel 'Maus' was an avowed inspiration for Satrapi's work, as well as a French comics artist named David B., whose style she imitated at first. The collaboration with Paronnaud came about after they shared a studio.
The animated 'Persepolis' received rave reviews in France and shared the Cannes festival Jury Prize with Carlos Reygadas' 'Silent Light.' It premiered in the US at the New York Film Festival and opened in some US theaters on Christmas Day.
The US's newly hostile stand against Iran may spur wider Stateside interest in this film, which skillfully combines a young woman's coming of age story with contemporary political history. This remains, however, basically a child's and young adult's version of events, a kind of post-1970 'Iranian History for Dummies.' The viewpoint has obvious limitations as a depiction of the larger events that are so much a part of the story Satrapi tells. The film moreover adds little that wasn't in the book other than a little more gray cross-hatching and in fact omits some day-to-day detail that make the original version specific. The film's look too remains as bare-bones, as virtually style-neutral as the book's. This is not to say 'Persepolis' hasn't complete technical integrity, clarity of storytelling, and much charm; nonetheless viewers in search of a phantasmogoric visual banquet or a thoroughgoing picture of modern Iranian history may be left hungry for more.
I rated this film a 9 more as a visual complement to the comic book (of two volumes, now bound as one), which I believe to be a masterpiece. If you left the film less than emotionally attached to the characters, PLEASE give the book a chance, because, as is often the case, episodes and histories of a lot of the characters, including Marjane, are left out to adapt the story to a film medium. Having said that, there are great sequences, expressionistic animation, and the wiseass grandma is left fully intact from the books! I can understand why some people weren't emotionally compelled by it though, since the movie doesn't take the time to fill the audience in on all the quirkiness and endearing qualities of the characters as Satrapi originally conceived them.
It's quite unusual for a writer to adapt its own book to the screen,
especially when it's a comic-book (well, Frank Miller's done it, but
that's another story), and especially when it's an autobiographical
comic book. That's the originality of this movie, which is the
adaptation of a autobiographical graphic novel by its very author.
"Persepolis" deals with the life, and especially the youth of Marjane
Satrapi, in Iran, during the reign of the Shah and the Islamic
revolution. But if the memories could be easily told alone in front of
a blank paper, isn't it harder to be true and sincere when you are
surrounded by a all animation crew ?
That's the great achievement of the movie : to be true to the comics and therefor, to the life of Marjane. The best parts of it are all about her personal relations, with her grandmother or her uncle. You really have the feeling that she relates all this events to praise their memories and who they were. On the other side, the political scenes and historical point of view that supposedly are the goal of the movie seem to me a little less good than the family or personal souvenirs. It may be true but it seems a little bit simple and even cliché sometimes (see for instance the history of the Shah for all audiences). The personal view on the repercussion of the Islamic repression is way better than this kind of big exposes. The death of a young man trying to escape the police after a party or the attitude of a man insulting her mother in a parking tells us more about the regime in Iran than the speech the movie sometimes (but not so often) gives us.
So, paradoxically, the more personal the movie gets, the truer it is. The all rapport the difficulties to left your country and to adapt to another world seems for instance very honest and touching. The childhood period, told in a comic strip style is both funny and melancholic. In the end, this movie is far from being a movie about Iran, but only tells an individual life, crying for freedom in a country were a woman can't reach it, but transfigured by personal memories and a strong animated point of view, that uses all the techniques and styles a comic-book adaptation could offer.
Adapting "Persepolis" in my opinion was a very important project.
Especially (but not only) during times of fear and extreme distrust
regarding other ethnicities it's necessary to communicate better
understanding for these cultures. Films are capable reach millions of
people all around the world. Therefore this medium is a very effective
way to do this (unfortunately it can also get misused in the opposite
Seen from this cultural perspective "Persepolis" is an entertaining feature which also meets a certain social responsibility. To me it is the right picture at the right time. In a individually visualized way this animation picture shows Marjane Satrapis personal biography and gives you an idea about the historical background of the Iran and the way of living in this part of the world. Besides several tragic moments "Persepolis" never loses it's humour.
In a short: "Persepolis" is a very true and affectionate adaption of the original comic also drawn by Satrapi who directed the film. An important issue and not only for this reason I truly recommend it !
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