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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Persepolis (review)

There is no question that the animation style of this French production is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before: it apes the style of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel of the same name, with its scratchboard vitality and black-and-white insistence. But something essential has gotten lost in the translation from the page to the screen. Which is not to say that this isn’t a fine film: it’s just not great, like I would have expected it to be, like the source material is. Satrapi — working with French comics artist Vincent Paronnaud — tells the true story of her childhood in Iran before and during the Islamic revolution, when her girlish vivacity, fueled by Western rock music and fantasies of the wider world that any teenager would recognize, slowly gets crushed under the tyrannical thumb of religious oppression. Small details about secret parties and illegal alcohol and other furtive defiance of the oppressive rule of the mullahs build to a larger, poignant story about overcoming fear — and learning to cope with it — when positively everything sprials out of control. As a cautionary tale about how fast tyranny can fall, there is power here. As a coming-of-age tale of a girlhood lost too soon, it leaves us wanting, just a little.

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including violent images, sexual references, language and brief drug content

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb

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