Thursday, January 31, 2008

Movie Review: Persepolis

Yesterday, my friend Caro and I went to see a movie. She suggested Persepolis, telling me "It's some sort of foreign comedy." I agreed. I later found out it was a cartoon about a girl growing up in Iran, and I cringed. First of all, that doesn't sound very funny, and secondly, I'm not really into animation. Yeah, yeah, I know. You loved Shrek, and wasn't Ratatouille great? Blah blah Anime blah. I don't know why, but when it comes to movie-legnth animation, it just doesn't really interest me. So I went into the theather with the attitude of a nine-year old about to eat a helping of lima beans. Surprisingly, I liked it. Persepolis is a French cartoon based upon graphic novels by Marjane Satrapi, who wrote them as a memoir about her experience as a rebellious girl growing up in Iran. The story begins during the late 70s, when the populace overthrows the Shah. However, Marjane's family soon finds out that the devil they knew was better than the one they didn't- life under the new militant Islamic regime is even worse than it was before. The story is interesting, and the drawing is both simple and beautiful, and yes, there are several comic moments. However, the most powerful aspect of the film for me was watching people I could relate to live under an oppressive government. It's easy to assume that the residents of Arab nations (well, the extreme ones) are either A. true believers or B. poor, uneducated, and therefore easily manipulated and forget the extistence of Iranians who hate wearing headscarves, sneak off to illegal parties with (gasp!) alcohol, and buy CDs and magazines on the black market. These people are living in a real-life version of the Handmaid's Tale, and it's horrifying.
The movie starts out strong- I loved all the scenes with Marjane as a child- but does start to drag once she reaches her teenage years. I initally wondered why they chose to subtitle the film in English instead of redubbing it, but it worked. Once I learned that the grandmother, my favorite character, was voiced the famed 89-year old French actress Danielle Darrieu, and Marjane's mother was voiced by Darrieu's actual daughter, the decision to keep the French narration made sense.

Here's the Globe review for a more detailed description of the movie.

1 comment:

xoxox said...

I would imagine that most Iranian-Americans can see reflections of their own lives in this film. The difficulties of fitting in as an immigrant, the separation from your family, and the dangers posed by traveling and living in Iran were all too real. The film captured many of those realities and brought them to life in a comic-tragic way. It was brilliant because no one wants a drawn-out depressing film on Middle Eastern history. This way people can see a glimpse of what life was like for people growing up in that era.