Persepolis DVD: Review By Dodd

It is nice to see a graphic novel adaptation that breaks away from the latest conventions of blood and special effects.
  • OVERALL
    3.0
    WORTHY
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
An animated film that goes more for rich character development than spectacle.
THE BAD
The film as a whole is good, but not great. This is not so much a problem. The film just doesn't meet the heights of a classic.
THE FEATURE
Persepolis is yet another project to come out of the graphic novel trend. While it si still cool in Hollywood to make comic book adaptations, it has also been discovered that graphic novels are not such a bad resource either. However, unlike projects such as Sin City and 300 packed machismo and sex, Persepolis is more like the female gender representation in the graphic novel market. The series was originally written by Marjane Satrapi and is finally given the big screen treatment.

The film is completely animated, as opposed to the latest trend of live actors in front of green screens, and is also fittingly in black and white. It tells the story of young Marji (voiced by Chiara Mastroianni, daughter of Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni) as she blooms from childhood into young adulthood. Unlike the story we are most accustomed to hearing about teen girls going through the common hardships of materialism and crushes, Marji has more difficult hurdles to overcome, such as growing up during the Islamic Revolution. Her father is adamantly against the monarchy and is a key player in giving democracy to Iran. However, when Islamic fundamentalists gain control, the brief smell of freedom is suppressed. Marji is sent to study in Vienna to get away from it all, and finds herself even traveling back to Iran during her journeys.

Persepolis is a well-meaning project out of France (yet about Iran) that takes a poignant look at life as an adolescent in a society most of us could never imagine experiencing. Marji was raised by liberal parents yet is suddenly thrown into a fundamentalist world where women are treated like inferior animals and are forced to refrain from wearing clothes the least bit revealing and enjoying the sweet nectar of popular culture.

The movie does tell a good story and its aesthetic fits it well. After all, a drab black and white is very fitting for a society of bleakness. I do not so much have problems with Persepolis. I just think the film is not all that it can be. I understand and appreciate its unconventional message of teen angst. Perhaps what I enjoyed the least about the project is when it actually dabbles more with being conventional. When Marji travels to Vienna she finds herself going through the usual motions of love/hate dating/sex. It is not that I do not think the character is entitled to this, but in these instances the movie begins to feel like many other female-centric dramas on television that ask in a whiny tone, "Why, oh why can I not need Mr. Right?".

But let me emphasize that Persepolis still deserves props where it does work. It is nice to see a graphic novel adaptation that breaks away from the latest conventions of blood and special effects. The animation is very basic, yet very crisp. And the story does manage to take a more unique perspective in the eyes of a young girl experiencing the Islamic Revolution.
THE EXTRAS
The DVD has a very generous portion of special features. The longest being, if you count it, an alternate, dubbed version of the film featuring the vocal talents of Sean Penn and Iggy Pop. If your eyes are tired, then this would probably be ideal. Or you could stick with the original French language version.

The Hidden Side of Persepolis is an interesting look behind the scenes with novel creator Marjane Satrapi who co-directed and co-wrote the film with fellow artist/animator Vincent Paronnaud. We get the story of how they met and are introduced to a lot of preliminary sketches. This is very laid-back and not sugar-coated in regards to featurettes. Behind the Scenes of Persepolis is the more condensed and Americanized version of the prior featurette with English interview and a compact, 8-minute runtime. There is a 30-minute Cannes Film Festival press conference that poses some good questions....in French.

The film also contains animation comparisons and select commentary tracks. While they are not feature length, they are certainly still better then nothing.
THE VIDEO
Widescreen. As previously mentioned, the film's look is a strong point. It is basic black and white, but the animation quality is top-notch and the color choice matches the tone.
THE AUDIO
5.1 Dolby Surround. The original film is in the French language. There is not much along the lines of music that stuck out, but the opening credit theme music is very catchy.
THE PACKAGE
The film is in a standard case with a decorative sleeve. The front cover illustrates numerous animated characters from the film.
THE FINAL WORD
Persepolis is a film that I would categorize as just "good". I do not dislike it, nor do I think it is everything the critics have hyped it up to be. The movie is transgresses animation and storytelling conventions, and I respect this. But really it is not wise to treat this as a blind buy. Give it a rent and see how you feel.

dodd@movieweb.com

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