Vincent Paronnaud + Marjane Satrapi | 2007 | 95 min | France
This animated feature is Marjane Satrapi's account of growing up during the Iranian Revolution. It is based on the two volumes of her comic book of the same name, but fortunately the co-director only uses those books as story guideline and artistic inspiration. Satrapi's drawing style is used as a starting point and launched far ahead. The line work is bold and simple while the charcoal backgrounds lend softness, subtlety, and incredible texture. Each frame is lush and beautiful, surprising for such stark black and white animation.
Persepolis begins with young Marjane witnessing the fall of Iran's shah and moves through the rise of the religious zealots who quickly dash any dreams of a progressive democracy. The revolution has grave implications for Marjane's family, and she is sent to school in Austria where a great deal of the story also takes place. Thankfully, the film condenses much of this period from the books, doing away with the more indulgent aspects of that arc.
Perhaps better than any other film I've seen, Persepolis is extremely well done in showing the transformation from romantic youthful notions of revolution to portraying the real toll of conflict invading every sphere of one's daily life. As revolution after revolution cuts down Satrapi's friends and family it is impossible to not be moved, cartoon or not. Persepolis is an unusual view of a young woman's coming of age story and a rare example of beautiful, innovative animated film.