December 19, 2007


This Girl's Life: The Islamic revolution, and puberty, through the 2D eyes of Marjane Satrapi (Nick Pinkerton, December 18th, 2007, Village Voice)

Satrapi and Paronnaud say they were inspired in part by silent-era German Expressionism, which is evident in the film's dynamic gouges of black; some of their most striking scenes are in silhouette, suggesting Lotte Reiniger's lacework-detailed Orientalist animation of the '20s. Persepolis, hand-penned by a team in Satrapi's adopted home of Paris, is almost entirely black-and-white—the exception is a framing device that finds a grown-up expatriate Marjane reminiscing from Orly airport. The books were largely drawn in pure China-ink simplicity, but the film is ambitious with effects. As fundamentalism lowers its pall over Tehran, Persepolis imparts the cultural sea change with a schoolyard of upturned girl's faces in an inky ocean of newly imposed cloaks and headdresses; when little Marjane, punked-out inasmuch as Islamic law will allow, is accosted on the street by two female zealots, the women appear lamia-like, solid black bodies coiling around their prey.

The guts of the thing, though, are in Satrapi's embroidery of quotidian details: the thrill of scoring contraband Western pop off the streets; the routine absurdity of a university "Life Drawing" class where all that's exposed is the model's face, the rest concealed under a tent of hijab; the smuggling of illegal homemade wine into house parties that could turn fatal with a knock on the door; the horny teenagers recruited into martyrdom with government-issued plastic keys to a Live Nude Girls "Paradise" (that capacity for make- believe gone very awry). The accessibility of her firsthand address—how Satrapi refits epic national tragedy to an identifiably personal scale—has made Persepolis college curriculum and its maker something of a spokeswoman. She's even earned a tribute of sorts from back home. Her movie's Jury Prize–winning stand at Cannes got a response from an Iranian government- affiliated cultural foundation; the film stands accused of presenting "an unrealistic face of the achievements and results of the glorious Islamic Revolution."

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 19, 2007 6:42 AM
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