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  Persepolis Home Is Where The Heart Is
Year: 2007
Director: Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud
Stars: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian, Gabrielle Lopez Benites, François Jerosme, Sophie Arthuys, Jean-François Gallotte, Arié Elmaleh, Mathias Mlekuz
Genre: Animated, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Marjane Satrapi (voiced by Chiara Mastroianni) has lived in France for some time now, but is preparing to return home to Iran, and goes the airport to catch her flight. However, when she gets to the departure desk, she cannot go through with it, and ends up sitting in the lounge area, smoking and thinking back over her life so far. She was born in Tehran, and her earliest memories are of a time of more freedom than she feels the country enjoys now, or has done for some years. When she was a little girl she was obsessed with both Bruce Lee and becoming a prophet, but as always with Marji's fun, there was real life waiting to spoil it...

Persepolis was an adaptation of Marjane Satrapi's graphic novels, and surprised a lot of people not accustomed to animation telling such biographical tales because it did it so well. It's not that cartoons were not a medium that couldn't tackle the big issues, it's just that most audiences were used to them delivering family entertaiment or, for the grown ups, a dose of sex, violence and dubious humour. Yet while this was a very funny film in places, the human story it told became unexpectedly affecting and utterly absorbing, relating a piece of history both personal and worldwide that many had neglected.

This is the history of Iran from the late seventies, when the Shah was overthrown, up until the mid-nineties, as while Marji prepares to return in the twenty-first century, we never get to find out in the film if she ever does, and her reminiscences finish at the point where she left for the apparent final time. Not that leaving is anything she took lightly, it's not as if she fancied a break to see the world, it's more that she couldn't stand to live in a country where she felt not only stifled, but in danger of being persecuted as she could not help her outspoken tendencies.

Marji here is a rebel, one of the most sympathetic to reach the screen, but not through her drive to bring down any governments or force any societies to their knees. No, she simply wants to be herself, to listen to the music she wants, to dress how she likes, to love who she wants (or not), simple things you might think, but not ones which seem compatible with Iran (or, worryingly, the rest of the world she sees). This is undoubtedly the reason that the film was so lambasted there, with the Iranian authorities putting in complaints in many festivals where it was shown, proof that Satrapi might well have had a point about their clamping down on freedom, for there is nothing here that it truly offensive.

If anything, Persepolis is immensely sympathetic to Iran and its people, it's those who curtail the liberties of those citizens who face Satrapi's wrath. There are many moments of humour scattered through her tale, such as her revision of her feelings about the Austrian boyfriend who cheats on her, or an amusingly terrible version of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" to denote Marji getting her life back on track, but there's always the tragedy of her friends and relatives being imprisoned or executed, or suffering the effects of a bloody war, to bring her down to Earth. One of the best characters is her grandmother (Danielle Darrieux), a wise old soul who offers advice, such as not to make the "idiots" who will try to bring Marji down feel too bad as there is enough bitterness in this world, or admonish her when she deflects the attentions of the police from her by getting them to arrest an innocent man. It's the lies that she and her countrymen have to tell that stay with you, a matter of survival, but still damaging to them in this clear-eyed gem. Music by Olivier Bernet.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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