Judge Franck Tabouring urges everybody to travel to Persepolis. It's worth the trip.
Our review of Persepolis, published June 30th, 2008, is also available.
Punk is not dead!
Here's an animated film you absolutely have to see. Nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, Persepolis is a truly stunning film that combines simple, traditional animation with a poignant story to offer audiences 95 minutes of grandiose filmmaking. Despite its wonderful animation and a young, rebellious protagonist, the film is not intended for kids. Instead, the story examines in great detail how a curious child finds her identity and learns how to perceive the world in a country taken over by fundamentalists.
Facts of the Case
Based on the graphic novels by Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis is a captivating coming-of-age story of a young girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Much of what you see in the movie is drawn from Satrapi's personal experiences, which obviously gives the entire story an even more personal touch.
So what is this film really about? I don't want to reveal too much about the plot because I want you to dive into this experience and find out for yourself, but essentially, Persepolis follows the adventures of Marjane, a young Iranian girl growing up under the shah in Iran. More specifically, the film also examines how major changes under different leaders affect her country and herself. What's so fascinating about this film is that the viewer gets to experience the entire story through the eyes of an outspoken girl who's incredibly curious about what's happening around her. A child examines such events in a different way than adults, and watching little Marjane rise against fundamentalism in her own way is at the same time deeply emotional and often quite funny.
Interestingly, the story is not limited to Marjane's experiences in Iran, but it also takes her to Austria, where she travels at age 14 at the request of her worrying parents. Although she's far away from the perilous situation at home, Marjane now faces the struggles of a teenager, realizing that even in Europe life is not all that perfect. At this stage, the movie moves away from a political aspect for a while, enabling viewers to find out more about Marjane's personality and her inner feelings about what she's been through and how she imagines her future life. She later travels back to Iran and stays there for several years, before she seriously starts considering living abroad for good.
Although it's 100 percent animated, Persepolis provokes just as many emotions as a solid real-life drama, primarily because the script and the characters boast an incredibly human aspect and most of the drawings are lifelike instead of cartoonish. The idea to use simple black-and-white animation was a smart choice, because it gives viewers the chance to really focus on the characters in each scene. Animation also offers unlimited possibilities in terms of representing imaginations, feelings and thoughts, an asset that certainly helps to boost the plot's pace and inject the story with plenty of imaginative ideas.
Besides the creative drawings, a powerful narration, and a compelling story line, the film also features excellent voice recordings, which is why I urge you to watch Persepolis in its original French version. Not only do the words perfectly match the character's lips, but they also reflect the film's authenticity. I pretty much refuse to watch a dubbed film because something about it just always sounds horribly wrong. Plus, I really don't mind reading subtitles if it's a language I don't know. I mean, what's the big deal, right? Among the actors lending their voices to Marjane and Co. are Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, and Gabrielle Lopes.
Much like the feature film itself, the 1.85:1 widescreen transfer delivers the goods. Although the black-and-white animation is by far not as complex as 3D, the film boasts an incredible sharp picture quality throughout. The amount of detail is really captivating, pulling viewers straight into the middle of the wonderful imagination of Satrapi and Paronnaud. As far as the audio is concerned, the disc includes both the original French and the English version, which come in a stunning Dolby True HD 5.1 transfer. Even from a technical point of view, this Blu-ray edition of Persepolis hits all the right notes.
For those who love the film just as much as I did, the bonus material on the DVD offers plenty of informative material to learn more about the origins of the graphic novel and the making of the motion picture. The special features kick off with "The Hidden Side of Persepolis," an interesting 30-minute featurette in which creator Marjane Satrapi talks about the original idea behind the comic book, the concept of narration in a graphic novel, and the reasons why they decided to stick with 2D animation for the big-screen version. This compelling piece also includes interviews with animators and set designers, who briefly describe their role in the making of the film and guide viewers through the process of creating drawings and characters, picking the right colors and setting up the storyboards.
In "Behind the Scenes," editor Stephane Roche and Iggy Pop, who voices one of the characters in the English version, briefly discuss the story of Persepolis, the movie's central messages, the human expressions of the characters, and the process of recording voices for animated figures. This featurette is pretty short, but it's still an enlightening addition to the one I just mentioned above. The bonus material also includes the 29-minute press conference from the Cannes Film Festival, at which the film premiered in 2007. Members of the cast and crew answer plenty of questions from journalists, revealing pretty much everything you would ever want to know about the heart and soul of the project. Besides four animated scene comparisons, the disc also features short commentaries on three select scenes by Satrapi and Paronnaud.
No matter how familiar you are with the history of Iran or the Islamic Revolution, Persepolis is a must-see. It's an instructive film that both serves as an important history lesson and offers a deeply emotional story about a young girl's journey through the complex stages of growing up. Fascinating stuff indeed.
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Scales of Justice
• "The Hidden Side of Persepolis"
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