Persepolis – coming soon

Last year saw the film adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis scooping the Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. The film has recently completed a run of cinemas here in the UK and is destined for both DVD and Blu Ray releases later this summer.

The story follows the life of ‘Marji’, growing up in Tehran during the deposition of the Shah, the Islamic Revolution and the subsequent war with Iraq. She grows up being inspired of tales of her courageous and rebellious uncle Anouche, who was imprisoned by the Shah for being a prominent Communist – she finally gets to meet him again after the overthrow of the regime, but their time together is painfully short.

Marjane glimpses a view of western culture via contraband Bee Gees records and later progresses to punk rock and heavy metal. One scene, which anyone who has ever alighted from Camden Market tube station can related to, shows Marjane walking down the street whilst shifty-looking men in trenchcoats whisper the names of bands.

As she gets older, her rebellious streak manifests itself in more overt ways; she holds hands with boys outside of marriage in public, and attends furtive parties with her parents, helping them to destroy their illegal homebrew before the police can find it. Her liberal parents eventually decide that post-Revolutionary Iran is no place for their young daughter to grow and flourish as a person, and so they pack her off to Vienna to study language, only to find that the Western world isn’t every bit as progressive and liberal as she’d hoped. Yearning for both her individual freedom and a sense of belonging, she moves back to Iran to be with her family, before once again leaving for Europe – this time Paris – perhaps for good. The film opens with Marjane smoking in an airport lounge, looking at the departure times for flights to Tehran.

The style of the animation pays homage to the original – Satrapi and director Vincent Paronnaud worked closely with the studios Je Suis Bien Content and Pumpkin 3D; all animation efforts are credited to the ‘Perseprod’ studio. The story is told in retrospect, with present events displayed in colour, and everything from the past is shown in black and white, which at times makes Marjane appear to be some distant cousin of Lise Myhre’s Nemi. The effects of cigarette smoke are particularly pleasant, at times, perhaps intentionally, recalling the curvature of Arabic script, and the historical asides, presented like shadow theatre puppetry take much of the pathos out of the radical political context.

Both the French and English voice-casts are pretty star studded; the original voice cast starred Chiara Mastroianni as Marjane – fittingly, real-life mum Catherine Deneuve provided the voice for Marjane’s mother. Sean Penn plays Father in the English dub, across from the inspired choice of Iggy Pop who voices Uncle Anouche.

The story is delivered with plenty of warmth and humour, with the Marjane confronting the problems she faces with an acid tongue and biting sarcasm. The only real let down for me was the cringe inducing ‘Eye of the Tiger’ montage.

Persepolis is due for release on DVD and Blu Ray on the 18th of August in a single disc package.

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