Anyone with lurking suspicions that animation is purely for kids should have those preconceived ideas totally overturned by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's Persepolis, which won the shared jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Based on Satrapi's autobiographical memoir, this animated adaptation deals with her and her family's experiences in Iran before and after the 1979 revolution. The 8-year-old Marjane dreams of being a prophet intent on saving the world and sallies forth with the words of her grandmother (voiced by veteran French actress Danielle Darrieux) ringing in her ears: “Always keep your integrity and stay true to yourself.”
When Tehran is bombarded in the war against Iraq and family members and friends start to disappear in mysterious circumstances, Marjane’s parents decide to send her to Vienna for her own protection. She shows signs of being too outspoken for her own good. There Marjane becomes a rebellious adolescent, relishing the freedoms but also having to cope with a life in exile. (Satrapi now has dual French and Iranian nationality and lives in Paris.)
Drawn on a wide-ranging canvas, Persepolis was three years in the making. The draftsmanship is exquisite, using both color and monochrome. The voices have been astutely chosen. Besides Darrieux, Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni echo their real-life roles as mother and daughter while Simon Abkarian plays her father. By turns lyrical, serious, funny and acerbic, Persepolis raises the bar for animation and illustrates the true power of storytelling in illuminating the world and its conflicts.
Distributor: Sony Classics
Voices: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian and François Jerosme
Directors/Screenwriters: Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
Producers: Marc-Antoine Robert and Xavier Rigault
Genre: Animation; French-, English-, Persian- and German-language, subtitled
Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material including violent images, sexual references, language and brief drug content
Running time: 95 min.
Release date: December 25, 2007 NY/LA
Reviewed: Festival de Cannes 2007