Persepolis

By Prasch, Tom | Film & History, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

Persepolis


Prasch, Tom, Film & History


Persepolis (2007)

Persepolis (2007)

Directed by Marj ane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud

Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics

www. sonypi ctures.com/classics/ persepolis

95 minutes

In 1971- thirty years after his installation in power in Iran by British forces, Mohammed Reza Shah held a massive, $100-million celebration of the 2,500 anniversary of the founding of the Persian empire at Persepolis, the ancient capítol. Although the ancient empire provided the excuse, the real celebration was of the Shah's own rule, his consolidation of power and his campaign to modernize (and Westernize) his nation. The Ayatollah Khomeini denounced the bash from exile as the "devil's festival." At the time, Marjane Satrapi was about to turn two.

Less than a decade later, the Shah himself would be overthrown, cast out by a coalition of secular leftist and Islamic opponents as Western once-allies, increasingly disturbed by the autocratic tendencies of the Shah, abandoned him. Khomeini would return triumphantly from exile and begin work installing the theocratic regime that governs Iran today, undermining, and then imprisoning, his once-time leftist allies along the way. Marjane Satrapi would experience the regime change, and the first years of the Iran-Iraq war that quickly followed, as a young girl, still only 14 when her parents sent her into safety and exile in Austria.

When, again in exile, this time more permanent, this time in France, she began to shape her stories of her past into narrative. Influenced by Art Spiegelman's "Maus," with its revelation about the possibility of the comic form to take on serious subjects, she chose to create an autobiography in graphic form. She called the work "Persepolis," hearkening back to that conceptual center of her homeland. The first volume of the work (at least in English translation; two volumes in the original French) tracked her experiences as a girl in the years of transition, 1978-84; a second volume (two, again, in the original French version) continued the story over the next decade, through her coming to adulthood (incorporating the Austrian exile, her return home, and her final departure from her homeland). Throughout the published work, she uses simple black-and-white illustrations to convey her story.

The film "Persepolis," a traditional hand-made animation developed through a collaboration between Satrapi and French comic artist Vincent Paronnaud (aka Winshluss; the two discuss their working methods in an interesting "making of the movie" video on thefilm's My Spacepage: http://www.my space.com/persepolismovie), recasts the tale somewhat, most notably by hewing to a more strictly chronological framework, while preserving both the graphic novel's tone and, broadly, its look. The only color sequences occur, at the outset and the ending, in an enveloping frame tale set in Paris's Orly airport (which makes Orly a bit like Oz), as the protagonist considers returning to her homeland (and then does not). …

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