Whats unusual about this hand-drawn animated feature from France is that it tells an adult story from a childs point-of-view. With the aid of French graphic artist Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi boldly details her very personal autobiography.
Back in 1978, little Marjane (voiced by Gabrielle Lopes) an avid fan of Bruce Lee, Iron Maiden and most things Western – sits with her enlightened, progressive family in Teheran, anxiously watching their Shahs repressive government become the Ayatollahs far worse fundamentalist revolution. Bewildered, yet defiant beneath her veil, she struggles to understand what is happening from the stories that adults relay to her, particularly her mother (voiced by Catherine Deneuve), grandmother (Danielle Darrieux) and Communist uncle (Francois Jerosme).
As Iran deteriorates, her parents dispatch the rebellious, now-adolescent Marjane (voiced by Chiara Mastroianni) to a French-speaking school in Vienna, where she becomes ambivalent and depressed, burning out on Euro-hedonism and gradually losing all sense of her own identity. Finally, she comes home, only to discover the strictures of Islamic law under the mullahs even more restrictive.
Filmed primarily in stark black-and-white, except for brief scenes in color, its a monochromatic, simplistic narrative which delves into contemporary political history, including war, torture and execution. And the title Persepolis derives from the original capital of Persia, founded in the sixth century B.C. and destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 A.D.
In Farsi and French with English subtitles, the vocal talent is remarkable: Catherine Deneuve is Chiara Mastroiannis real-life mother and Danielle Darrieux played Ms. Deneuves mother 40 years ago in The Young Girls of Rochefort.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Persepolis is a stylized, sensitive 7, an often comic, yet heart-breaking, outspoken portrait of a young girl and a nation in turmoil.