“Persepolis,” review by Susan Granger

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What’s unusual about this hand-drawn animated feature from France is that it tells an adult story from a child’s 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 Shah’s repressive government become the Ayatollah’s 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, it’s 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 Mastroianni’s real-life mother and Danielle Darrieux played Ms. Deneuve’s 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.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.