Friday, 9 October 2009

Persepolis (2007)

I really should have put a footnote at the end of my last entry to say that I was going away for a few days. That would have explained my brief silence to those who take an interest in my cinematic lovelife. Anyhow I'm now back from France, truly walked-out, nearly art-satiated, and definitely overstuffed with rich food and drink -- and I have not seen a single film in the past four days. Quel dommage!

I actually caught up with the above prize-laden animation a few weeks ago, but had not got around to reflecting further upon its unique look and eye-opening content. Co-directed (with artist Vincent Peronnaud) from the safety of her current base in Paris by Iranian emigree Marjane Satrapi and based on her own graphic novel, it is her autobiographical riff on events in Iran from the late 70s to the early 90s, told with a modicum of black humour mixed with love and regrets. We first meet tomboyish schoolgirl Marjane in the days before the overthrow of the despised Shah. She lives in Teheran (ancient Greek name Persepolis) with her cultured and modern parents and is vaguely aware of the political turmoil around her, especially after the arrest and death of a beloved uncle. She soon finds that things have moved from bad to worse with the Cultural Revolution enforced by the mullahs and her cheeky behaviour is courting trouble. Her parents arrange for her to continue her schooling in Vienna where she falls in with a dissolute crowd of "rich kids" at the local lycee, and is forced to lie to her family about her lifestyle and well-being. Missing her family and her homeland, she returns to find an even more oppressive country than the one she left and, after a brief marriage, leaves her beloved Persepolis for good.

This animation for adults won the Jury Prize at Cannes and was Oscar-nominated, but the largely black and white simple style of the artwork was no match for the feel-good colour of "Ratatouille". The film is available in two versions with Chiara Mastroianni voicing Marjane and her mother Catherine Deneuve voicing the mother in both the original French and the English-dubbed versions; Danielle Darrieux' grandmother becomes Gena Rowlands in the latter and Sean Penn and Iggy Pop also join the celebrity voice cast. As is my usual wont I would plump for the subtitled version.

It is probably best to keep in mind that this film is not intended as a straight history lesson and little is made of the roles of US and British interests in the area. Rather it is a personal reflection on very real events as viewed by an intelligent and outspoken spirit who has learned her grandmother's lessons on never compromising. She is able to poke fun at herself while still presenting the viewer with a scary insight into repression and the loss of personal freedom.

This will probably be my penultimate posting before the annual film-orgy that is the London Film Festival, beginning next week. I have chosen thirteen largely offbeat attractions so all sorts of goodies will follow here as time and energy allow.
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