February 25, 2008

Excellent film adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel series Persepolis may have lost the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature to Ratatouille this year, but it’s a must see nevertheless. For a ninety-five minute distillation of an epic work that covers ages 9 to 24 in Satrapi’s life, the movie manages to cover a remarkable amount of ground while remaining coherent and instructive. During that time, beginning in the late 70’s, Iran experienced a revolution and then a disastrous war with Iraq. The Islamic Republic that governs Iran became increasingly fundamentalistic and repressive in nature, twice driving Satrapi from her homeland. The animation here is directly inspired by Satrapi’s original art, but as conceived and adapted by Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, the movie doesn’t settle for being merely a moving version of its graphic novel source, a slavish approach that adversely afflicted last year’s 300. Instead her work is reinvented as an intensely cinematic work of art, full of moments of humor and charm, but also of horror, fear and confusion. It’s one of the best book to film adaptations I’ve seen. As a coming of age story, it’s unique for its perspective into modern Iranian culture and history, which too many Americans will find, as I did, they know little to nothing about. The idea that many Iranian citizens paid for their open desire for a freer society with exile, imprisonment or execution will come as a revelation for those who tend to associate Iran with, as Satrapi observes in the introduction to The Complete Persepolis, “fundamentalism, fanaticism and terrorism.” The richly entertaining Persepolis just may turn out to be a future classic, not just a classic animated feature, but a classic film, period.


(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)


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