Revo­lu­tion­ary youth

This an­i­mated biopic set in 1980s Iran suc­ceeds on ev­ery level, writes Michael Dwyer PERSE­PO­LIS Di­rected by Mar­jane Sa­trapi and Vin­cent Paron­naud. Voice cast: Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mas­troianni, Gena Row­lands, Sean Penn, Iggy Pop, Amethyste Frezignac

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Reviews Film -

12A cert, Cineworld, IFI, Dublin, 96 min A POP­U­LAR prize-win­ner at Cannes last sum­mer, Perse­po­lis is quite un­like any other an­i­mated fea­ture film. It am­bi­tiously op­er­ates on mul­ti­ple lev­els, switch­ing seam­lessly be­tween them and some­times over­lap­ping, and suc­ceeds on all of them – as a touch­ing com­ing-of-age tale, a pointed po­lit­i­cal satire and a fem­i­nist fa­ble, as a se­ri­ous-minded drama and an up­roar­i­ously funny com­edy.

It is a deeply per­sonal film for Mar­jane Sa­trapi, who wrote and di­rected it with il­lus­tra­tor Vin­cent Paron­naud, and im­bued it with her feisty per­son­al­ity. The imag­i­na­tively struc­tured screen­play is based on Sa­trapi’s au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal graphic nov­els about a pre­co­cious young girl named Mar­jane, grow­ing up in Iran from the down­fall of the Shah in 1978 through the rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion of the coun­try af­ter the Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion.

Mar­jane is in­tro­duced as an adult ar­riv­ing at Orly air­port in Paris, be­fore the movie flash­backs through her event­ful life, be­gin­ning in Tehran when she is seven years old (and voiced by Amethyste Frezignac). An only child, she is raised by mid­dle-class lib­eral par­ents (Catherine Deneuve and Sean Penn), and Mar­jane in­her­its the


re­bel­lious na­ture of her grand­mother (Gena Row­lands).

They op­pose the rule of the Shah, whose forces ar­rest her un­cle (Iggy Pop). Af­ter the revo­lu­tion, life is cer­tainly dif­fer­ent un­der the new theo­cratic regime, but marked by the re­stric­tions and re­pres­sion im­posed by the moral­ity po­lice – on women, in par­tic­u­lar. Mar­jane, a Bruce Lee fan who has em­braced west­ern pop mu­sic (from Abba to Iron Maiden), is bright and out­spo­ken, and she ob­jects to the pro­pa­ganda she is fed in the class­room.

When she is 14 (now voiced by Chaira Mas­troianni), her par­ents de­cide to send her to school in Vi­enna. It’s an­other world, but one where Mar­jane is ill at ease, yet on re­turn­ing to Iran, she feels like a stranger in her own land. As she grows up, she has to make some dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions if she wants to live the rest of her life with the free­dom she cov­ets.

Perse­po­lis re­volves around Mar­jane, her mis­ad­ven­tures, plea­sures and dis­ap­point­ments, which are set against pe­ri­ods of so­cial and po­lit­i­cal change. Her strong voice rings out loud and clear through­out this won­der­fully spir­ited movie that com­mend­ably re­fuses to por­tray her as an­gel or saint, vic­tim or mar­tyr. Time and again, the film es­chews the tra­di­tional arc of sce­nar­ios chart­ing and cel­e­brat­ing the in­domitable na­ture of the hu­man spirit.

There is a classical sim­plic­ity about the film’s hand-drawn an­i­ma­tion, which is pre­dom­i­nantly in bold strokes of black and white and takes on a charm­ing qual­ity of its own.

In a movie that finds and mines hu­mour in some of the dark­est, most un­likely places, many of the wit­ti­est, most play­ful gags are vis­ual.

De­spite its spe­cific po­lit­i­cal con­text, the movie re­veals a uni­ver­sal­ity as it con­fi­dently pro­ceeds. It ex­udes warmth and hu­man­ity, sub­tly shift­ing moods as it breezes along at an en­er­getic pace that never slack­ens, to form an ex­hil­a­rat­ing and truly spe­cial cin­e­matic ex­pe­ri­ence.

The classical sim­plic­ity of Perse­po­lis’s hand-drawn an­i­ma­tion takes on a charm­ing qual­ity of its own

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