Friday, 25 April 2008

Persepolis - Review by Joseph Wren

Director: Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud
Screenwriters: Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud
Certificate: 12A
Running Time: 95 mins
Release Date: 25 April

An Oscar-nominated Cannes winner, Persepolis finally reaches the UK after oodles of accolades as one of 2007’s best features. This new English-dubbed version of Marjane Satrapi’s animated memoirs includes the voice work of Sean Penn, Gena Rowlands, and Iggy Pop alongside original French-language cast members Chiara Mastroianni (Marjane) and Catherine Denuve (mother), the bilingual real-life mother/daughter team who translate their roles for English-speaking audiences.

Based on the graphic novels of the same name, Persepolis is a coming of age story first, and a history lesson second. Book-ended by colour scenes of Marjane at a Paris airport, she tells, with great humour and heart, her story of growing up from the idealistic late seventies through the depressing nineties. Marjane recalls her parents (voiced by Penn and Denuve), a couple of “caviar leftists” whose politically progressive principles are enthusiastically embraced by Marjane, who grins with hypnotic glee as her Uncle Anouche (Iggy Pop) tells stories about her late communist relatives. The young Marjane, who loves Abba, mimics Bruce Lee, and chants “down with the Shah” while pumping her fist in the air, is a darling of a character, eminently likeable and adorable. From the innocence of youth the story moves up through the teenage punk years (buying black-market Iron Maiden cassettes) and into Marjane’s experiences in the Iran-Iraq War, the revolution, and her subsequent move to Vienna. Sharing her personal account through the changing face of Iran through the years provides a human perspective on a part of the world all too commonly feared and misrepresented in the western world today.

These stories of the past are animated in a stark black & white imagery reminiscent of shadowy German expressionism. This visual approach has a distinct appeal that is as effective for Persepolis as Pixar’s magic is for its gorgeous films. The English-dubbed version of Persepolis suffers a bit, as audiences are meant to believe Sean Penn, Gena Rowlands and Iggy Pop voicing Iranians, which is distracting. Even the some of the hard-line Iranian guards are voiced by Americans with a southern drawl, which is either a coy political statement or just very odd. Still, Persepolis is a little treasure of a film, a vibrantly exhibited story of a likeable, funny character that will reward attentive audiences for years to come. Though it is an animated film, its themes are too mature for younger audiences to appreciate, though it could be a revelation for socially aware teens. See Persepolis regardless of the language, but catch the original French version if you can.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. hopw I get to see it soon.

Hope you landed on your feet by the way.