295. Persepolis (France/Iraq 2007)

Directors/Screenplay: Marjane Satrapi/Vincent Paronnaud

Book: Marjane Satrapi

Music: Oliver Bernet

Fact: The film lost out to Ratatouille for Best Animated Film at the 2007 Academy Awards.

Lie: None that I can think of off-hand, but I once persuaded my sister’s boyfriend that harridan TV cook Fanny Cradock was indeed a man. He believed this fr many years.

In one line: A child grows up in pre and post-revolutionary Iran and then goes into exile.

 

Summary: Marjane Starapi’s beautiful graphic novel is brought to life in this fabulous animated film version. Pesepolis tied for Best Film at the 2007 Cannes film festival.

The film opens with the 24 year old Marji as a lost soul in Orly airport. She is on her way back to Iran after growing up in various European cities as both exile and émigré.

Marji recounts her life from pre-revolutionary days. We see an Iran that is not much different to many places in terms of its middle class life. The young Marji is an Adidas trainer-wearing Bruce Lee fan – full of life and trying to make sense of the world and her professional academic parents’ world of drinks parties and other chattering class activities.

The world gets darker, the corrupt Shah is deposed and after a honeymoon period, Islamic fundamentalists take over the country and a different reign of terror begins.

Marji’s Uncle Anouche has appeared in her life and he is (at first) delighted with the revolution and does his best to apologise for the broad strokes and (literal) liberties taken by the new regime. Anouche’s free-thinking and genuinely socialist views do not go un-noticed and he is imprisoned by the new regime.

Iraq declares war, freedoms are further curtailed (especially for women) and Marji is sent to Austria to escape the threatened state-endorsed rape and murder of those brave women who are prepared to speak out.

Marji finds degrees of happiness and unhappiness in the west, but returns to Iran after a bout of bronchitis almost kills her.

The new regime is more tyrannical than ever and after a savage verbal attack on the sexist mores of the country at a university seminar, Marji is advised to leave Iran once again before she is made to disappear.

Persepolis is a fantastic film, an almost old-fashioned world-cinema film designed to show that we really are all the same – with the same hopes and fears and desires as anyone else in the world.

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Marji is a spirited creation as is her grandmother, and the lively, ribald dialogue of these two women is at odds with the typical representation of Iranian/Muslim women we’ve come to expect.

There are any number of brilliant set pieces and funny vignettes. Marji’s discovery of western music and rebellion is quite brilliantly realised as she goes from vinyl Bee Gees singles to furtive, illegal Iron Maiden cassettes bought from shady street hawkers on the streets of Iran.

The film/story/portrayal is almost an Iranian ‘Animal Farm’ – as language and rules are manipulated by the ‘revolutionaries’ so that a new ruling cabal can put their noses in the trough in order to enjoy the spoils of power and wealth by creating and perverting religion, politics and philosophy for their own selfish ends.

Marji is a brilliant creation and it’s easy to identify with her clever, opinionated, ever-questioning iconoclast self - whatever sex, religion or nationality you may be. If you’ve any spark of life yourself, that is.

Highly recommended.

 

9.5/10