Persepolis (2007) Review:

Animated perfection.

A story told in monochrome.
A story told in monochrome.

Cast: Sean Penn, Gena Rowlands, Iggy Pop, Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, et al…

Director: Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi

Runtime: 96 minutes

Plot (from IMDb): Poignant coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution.

Nuns do not come across well.
Nuns do not come across well.

Persepolis is a fantastic movie, one of the best animated features I have seen in quite a long time. This is a funny film that is as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking. Boasting sublime 2D animation Persepolis demands to be seen, especially as you can find it very cheap these days.

We are treated to the life of Marjane Satrapi (Chiara Mastroianni); we watch her transition from child to adult, growing up in the troubled Iran, before being forced abroad by her parents to Austria and then France, until her spell homeless on the streets. It’s heart-warming and sad to know that this is a story based on Marjane’s real life – we see her personal development and growth as a person shaped by her surroundings, family and friends.

Persepolis is not just heart-warming, it is also quite sad. Marjane really went through some tough times, and Iran comes across not very well despite her childish enthusiasm and perhaps naivety. Ultimately, this is someone’s life we are watching unfold on the screen, so you may need a tissue for any stray tears that escape the confines of your eyes. There are themes of repression, and we are told that Marjane did grow up to distrust men – who are portrayed as the oppressive, the ones to be overthrown. She trusts her family more than anyone, and has a particularly strong bond with her grandmother (Gena Rowlands).

Fight the power.
Fight the power.

Sean Penn plays Marjane’s father and Iggy Pop plays her reactionary uncle. Don’t worry about the big names in the film, both Penn and Iggy Pop give a strong performance and we don’t believe their characters any less despite their recognisable voices. Indeed, voice-acting in Persepolis is very strong, but the true stars of this show are the script and animation.

Persepolis is funny despite its slightly downbeat demeanour, what took me by surprise is how funny the film is. Don’t think Dreamwork’s style humour here, Persepolis is a grown up animation and we are given subtle humour throughout, even when times looked the toughest for Marjane. However, it is not just the humour that is impressive here, it’s the mixture of humour with sadness and joy; reminding us that joy and fun can be found in even the most depressing of places.

Perhaps the best message in Persepolis can be found later on in the film, where Marjane is studying in Austria, the ‘friends’ she makes seem all well and good, talking about issues in the world, but they do not fool Marjane. The comeuppance of hipsters will always make me feel good, they deserve it.

It's great when she loses it.
It’s great when she loses it.

As Persepolis is based on a comic of the same name, its visual style is already there, but it is in how they brought the comic to life that impresses me. Persepolis looks just like the book, but with free and wonderful animation that brings the artwork beautifully to life – this is the finest animation I have seen in a long time, it’s just a shame that we do not see more 2D animated films.

Summary:

Persepolis is a quietly excellent film, which, despite its depressing setting and nature is sweet, heart-warming and very funny. Animation has never looked quite so good, and Persepolis makes me wish more films looked this good – I’d love to see a Scott Pilgrim film like this.

Persepolis is a very, very good film that is cheap to pick up on Blu-Ray, so go buy it and watch it.

90/100

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