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The Best of 2007: 'Persepolis'

Persepolis (2007 film)

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Persepolis was nominated for Best Animated Film at the Oscars and it is my pick for the best animated film of the year. Like The Kite Runner, this film also deals with the true life story of a young Muslim overcoming great personal anguish at a time of huge political upheaval in her homeland. Hand drawn animation in feature films has unfortunately become less common to see in recent years thanks to an onslaught of CG animated films brought on by American markets. This film's brilliant black and white palette and constant use of curved lines used in drawing the characters and their world's architecture (very much influenced by Arabian art much like what was done in Disney's Aladdin) is nothing short of magic. This film written and directed by French animators and an Iranian comic book artist gives us a rather unique look at what could easily been seen as yet another coming-of-age story had it not been a comic book originally.

Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel based on her life as a young girl growing up in Tehran, Iran cherishing the early freedoms of free expression, greater opportunity for women, and easy accessibility to foreign treasures are slowly ripped away from her; literally and figuratively shaping her as she grows up. Like a teenager discarding old toys by choice, our heroine's toys that she once took for granted are vanishing before her eyes in the midst of a decade long war between her country and Saddam Hussein, extreme religious upheaval, and a theocratic government that still controls every way of live in Iran today. Unlike most films that deal in subjects similar to this, the medium of animation allows the storytellers to make use of the pizzazz and imagination of a comic book, the humorous exaggeration of a cartoon, and the endless epic scope that would have been deemed too expensive to capture in live action. All of these tools are very well used while still being respectful to not lose the dramatic potency of the issues depicted in the story.

Despite any qualms one would have between live action versus animation, Persepolis without a doubt has the heart of a genuine fairy tale-- and many of them have been portrayed extremely well in either medium. Although this film did not get a very wide release here in the US (obviously it didn't get any release in Iran), this French made film should be a great delight to any fan of animation. For fans of French cinema, the beautiful Catherine Denueve of Francois Truffaut's 1960's and 1970's works voices the mother of the writer-heroine in this picture.