DVD Review: ‘Persepolis’

Persepolis is the feature film version of Marjane Satrapi’s two-volume autobiographical graphic novels of the same name.  It’s received a bunch of awards and was nominated at this year’s Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature (Ratatouille won).  It’s a crazy mix of politics and culture, with incredible animation and some genuinely funny moments.  It’s not “Netflix This”-worthy, but for those looking for something fresh and irreverent, Persepolis is worth a look.

What’s it about?  Marjane Satrapi is a rambunctious eight year-old living in Tehran, Iran during the cultural revolution of 1978.  Her parents are politically active and oppose the Shah.  But when the country switches from a monarchy to a Islamic theocracy, things for the Satrapis family go from not great to really not great.

The family endures the Iran-Iraq war and finds ways to quietly protest the ruling government’s extremism (like attending a secret party where alcohol is served and buying forbidden music like Bee Gees and Iron Maiden from street vendors).

Things keep getting worse, so Marjane’s parents send her to Vienna to go to school.  It is on her own that Marjane embraces western decadence and slowly loses her Iranian identity.

As a young twenty-something, Marjane returns to Iran, only to find she doesn’t belong there any more than she did in Europe.  The end.

What’s good about it?  This sounds like a downer of a film, but the movie is scattered with some hilarious moments.  It’s weird, quirky, funny and honest. The mostly black and white animation is a revelation–gorgeous, at times somber, but always effective.  The film is subtitled in French, but don’t worry–there is an English-language track on the DVD so you can watch the film without subtitles.

What’s bad about it?  Just because it’s animated doesn’t mean it’s family-friendly.  There is a fair share of violent content and sexual situations that may turn off those looking for something that’s appropriate for all ages.  

The film is autobiographical, which means the story doesn’t have a traditional narrative.  Like most biopics, this one is Stuff Happening (see Ray, Ali or Walk the Line).

Perfect for: Animation buffs, foreign film enthusiasts.

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