recently saw “persepolis”, the animated film by marjane satrapi. the film is inspired by satrapi’s comic books persepolis 1 and 2 about her life in iran and europe, but the drawings have not been simply transferred to another medium. instead there is cinematic transformation. persepolis is strongly influenced by german expressionist films – the artwork is spare, elegant and luminous and the results are stunning. satrapi drew all of the hundred or so original characters herself. her involvement in every aspect of the film gives it coherence and intimacy – she lends it her personality. there is sharp analysis, easy humor and consistent heartbreak. there is also much nostalgia – most of the film takes the shape of a black and white flashback. we are drawn in, seduced by satrapi and her world.

but the most ground-breaking aspect of the film is how it refuses to locate the story of a young woman struggling with social upheaval and the private pains of growing up. by being animated it purges the plot line of cultural exoticism and makes the story universal. the fact that the entire film is in french is also crucial (although its import in terms of filmmaking was probably more practical than aesthetic). all iranians in the film (even those based in iran) speak flawless french. austrian or british characters are the ones with heavy accents. by taking culture out of the equation (no funny accents or weird clothes except for the pivotal issue of the scarf, no strange locations or foreign faces) satrapi is able to do away with all the historical baggage and instinctive judgements associated with “others”.

one thing is certain – marjane satrapi is immensely talented and she has a lot to say. check out this interview by michelle goldberg:

“sexual revolutionaries”“persepolis” author marjane satrapi talks about why iranians don’t think sex is sinful, the hypocrisy of american saber-rattling over iran, and why george bush and the mullahs are the same.

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