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Persepolis (2007)

by on 2010/11/30

This review is dedicated to the memory of my feisty and outspoken grandmother, Anne Phillips.  How I loved her.

* * * *

Eccentric, hilarious, troubling and wise, Persepolis is a child’s take on war and war’s many victims. Based on the black-and-white graphical novels of the same name, Persepolis is autobiographical look at a young girl living in Iran during the final days of the Shah and the rise of the Islamic regime. Persepolis author and director Marjane Satrapi gives us a view into her early life and young adulthood that is intimate and heart-breaking.

Through a combination of black-and-white animation and colour vignettes in French with English subtitles, the movie shows us that the life of an outspoken girl in a repressive state is a hard and troubled one. An average girl in a close-knit family, Marjane tells us: “I loved fries with ketchup. Bruce Lee was my hero.”

Terrorizing her friends with her Kung Fu moves and asking the adults uncomfortable, challenging questions, Marjane learns from her communist parents that the Shah government is corrupt and violent. After the revolution, the Shah’s reign is replaced by an Islamic party that implements new social and political restrictions.

Parties, drinking,  Western music and clothing are banned. Marjane is caught in a city park wearing a Michael Jackson pin and jean jacket, and narrowly escapes serious punishment. Her urbane and educated parents do their best to maintain their previous lifestyle, hiding both alcohol and their political beliefs from the neighbours. When war breaks out with Iraq, Marjane wanders through city streets filled with rubble and bodies, living in constant fear of her quick wit landing her in jail.

When Marjane tells off her teacher for the last time (to applause from her classmates), her terrified parents send Marjane to Vienna to attend high school. A stranger in a strange land, Marjane is shuttled between homes, her heart is kicked in the ass by several men, and she winds up on the streets. Found near death in a park, she recovers in hospital and decides to return to her parents in Iran.

University, marriage, ennui and depression ensue.

The thread that binds all of these moments is Marjane’s beautiful relationship with her grandmother. Marjane tells us how her grandmother would pick jasmine flowers from her garden in the morning and place them in her bra to smell beautiful all day.

Like Marjane, her sharp-tongued, fierce grandmother is herself a triumph of the human spirit in the face of repression and despair, telling Marjane not to let “fear lull our minds to sleep.”

Marjane Satrapi has left her beautiful, honest and profound diary (in the form of this award-winning, acclaimed film) open for all of us to read. The experience will leave you wiser and fill you with hope.

* * * *

Rated PG-13 for violent images, sexual references, language, and brief drug content

96 minutes

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