Marjane Satrapi (voice of Chiara Mastroianni) is growing up in Iran under the old regime - the Shah and his Royal family. But when he is deposed by the new order, Marjane and her family - mother (Catherine Deneuve), father (Simon Abkarian) and grandmother (Danielle Darrieux) - face the new threat of fundamentalism and the Taliban. To make things worse, Iran and Iraq embark on a horrific 10 year war, and Marjane's view of life is filled with fear and death. She seeks refuge in the West but finds herself excluded and homesick. Returning home, she finds that while she is deeply Iranian, she cannot live in Iran and begins a search for a new life and a new identity.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With deceptively simple, mostly black and white animation, the filmmakers take us through a life story that is anything but simple. This Oscar nominated film is autobiographical otherwise it would seem melodramatic and manipulative with its pulsating rhythms of elation and depression as Iranian youngster Marjane Satrapi (Chiara Mastroianni) endures and escapes and eventually returns to Iran, before finally leaving it yet again.
She lives through the war against Iraq, the revolution against the Shah and the arrival of the Taliban, and as the rebellious young woman is buffeted by fate, we begin to realise just how devastating history has been to her country. Yes, we knew it before, but in the sort of distant knowing with which we know that the North Pole is very cold. Through a connection with a very real human being, whose voice and whose point of view is both passionate and rational, we are driven into close proximity to her life.
The storytelling is outstanding, with a reductive animation style that somehow inflates our imagination and creates an intuitive connection with the characters. The voice work from a top cast is always excellent, and I am especially in awe of how veteran actress Danielle Darrieux generates such a powerful presence through her animated character as Marjane's wise grandma. Mastroianni is also excellent, as is Catherine Deneuve as her caring and devoted mother.
Olivier Bernet's score sits beautifully within the work, helping to create a haunting, thought provoking film of great compassion.
Review by Louise Keller:
A unique insight into life in Iran from the point of view of a young girl, this observant cinematic impression sears itself into our consciousness by it simplicity - both in storytelling and graphic representation. The film is Marjane Satrapi's story (based on her graphic novel memoir), which she has adapted and directed in collaboration with acclaimed artist Vincent Paronnaud. Stylised abstract minimalist sketches in striking black and white depict the coming of age tale of a curious, forthright little girl whose eyes were prised open during the Islamic Revolution. Political oppression makes way for life with a specific mindset and the resulting is a touching experience filled with melancholy, irony and humour.
When we meet Marjane as a nine year old child (voice of Gabrielle Lopes), her ambitions are simple: to shave her legs one day and to be the last prophet of the galaxy. While her idealism remains, it is the more practical things that take up much of her early years as she is influenced by her close knit family comprising her father (voice of Simon Abkarian), mother (voice of Catherine Deneuve) and beloved grandmother (voice of Danielle Darrieux), who puts fresh jasmine flowers in her bra each day to smell sweet. The joyous innocence turns to pragmatic disillusionment as killing, war and her uncle's execution make life untenable. Her questioning nature at school prompts her parents to send a teenage Marjane (voice of Chiara Mastroianni) to Vienna, where we follow her experiences at school, on the streets and those of the heart, when she discovers the opposite sex. Remembering her parents' words to remember her roots, she is always an outsider, even when she returns to Iran as a young woman wearing the veil.
Visually, Persepolis is a feast of imagery - the black and white lines are simple as well as ornate with expressive curls representing waves, clouds, Marjane's imagined God in Heaven and the ever-present jasmine flowers from her sweet-smelling grandmother. Nominated for an Academy Award (2008), winner of the 2007 Cannes Jury Prize and many others, Persepolis is an unforgettable story of identity and integrity about an individual who always remains true to herself.
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VOICES: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian, Gabrielle Lopes Benites, Gabrielle Lopes, François Jerosme
NARRATION: Chiara Mastroianni
PRODUCER: Xavier Rigault, Marc-Antoine Robert
DIRECTOR: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
SCRIPT: Vincent Paronnaud (novel by Marjane Satrapi)
EDITOR: Stéphane Roche
MUSIC: Olivier Bernet
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Marisa Musy
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 21, 2008