Thursday, February 14, 2008


Down With Oppression!

It is not difficult to understand the growing number of accolades that are being bestowed upon Persepolis, directed by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi, which is based upon the graphic novel of the same title by Marjane, as it recounts in autobiographical terms, the growing pains of the author in a world that had undergone tremendous change in the last few decades.

Yes, not many films take on the political and social context of Iran head on, and what more doing so in very acute, straightforward, no holds barred terms. But it doesn't just seek to pass callous judgement or sought the easy way out to slam everything about the restrictive standard of living. Rather, it's a long hard look at the oppression and changes for the relative worse, and summarizes quite succinctly the turmoil that its ordinary citizenry had to endure in their day to day lives, but yet, always have that glimmer of hope to cling onto, and the joys of taking pleasure in the simple things in life.

The story is told through the perspective of author Marjane Satrapi from the time she's a young child, and life as she knew back then forms the baseline where changes are measured against. For the first act, we're treated to a summary of the historical events that took place in the late 70s revolution, and the euphoric sentiments that came with it, before reality set in, and religious fervour take centerstage. We follow Marjane as she grows up and we partake in the later acts where her life abroad is filled with the expected cultural shocks, and becomes a tale about the remembering of one's roots.

Strangely enough and here's where the kudos go to, is that Persepolis never, at any moment, felt like it was preaching from a soap box, nor is heavy handed in its treatment of politics and religion. Its allowance for comedy was extremely generous, with cheeky lines thrown in and thank goodness too for her Grandma who's a constant chicken soup for the soul, her bawdy sense of humour and subtle sarcasm never far away, and to whom the references of the Jasmine flower belongs to. But it's not all lighthearted laughter, as when the time calls for tension, you'll feel just as panicky as the Iranians when the morality police come aknocking at one's door, in their obsessive attempts to weed out decadent western influences, which often defies simple social logic to the likes of you and me. As my friend put it, it's blatant hypocrisy on display.

And for it to be nominated for Best Animated Film in the upcoming Oscar awards does give Persepolis a vote of confidence in its art department, but naturally without a doubt for its strong, engaging storyline as well. The movie is almost devoid of colours as it's spent recollecting the past, and despite it being just in black and white, it's still simply gorgeous to look at. The lighting and shadow play worked wonders, and the slick editing and transitions make Persepolis deserving of a second viewing. I thought that for its subject matter, animation would probably be the way to go because there will be expected problems to shooting scenes in country, especially for authenticity purposes. But with animation done right, one can probably get away with stylistic license taken.

Highly recommended, and not to be missed especially if you're an animation fan, or are yearning for an excellent piece of storytelling.

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