Persepolis - DVD Review

'in part, a kick up the backside to the people in the ‘West’ who simply view places like Iran as the all encompassing ‘East’'

My girlfriend walks into my front room where one of my good friends (who appears to have moved in with us since we recently moved back to my hometown) and I are sitting.
‘What films have we got then?’ She asks.
‘Well, one is Fool’s Gold’, I reply, in a rather despondent voice which is perfectly countered by her eager smile.
‘The other one is Persepolis.’
‘Ooh, what’s that?’ She asks.
‘It was nominated for the animated film Oscar’ I tell her, learnedly, ‘it’s about a girl who has to switch between France and Iran and discover herself and all stuff like that.’
Silence fills the room.
‘So let me get this straight,’ says my friend, breaking it. ‘You two are going to sit here and watch what is basically a foreign cartoon in one or both of either French or Iranian?’
‘Erm… yes,’ I reply.
‘Oh… I’m off to the pub then.’

I share this little anecdote because I think it probably signifies a pretty standard, non-film fan response to Persepolis. It is, to all intensive purposes, a foreign cartoon biography of a non-famous person. However, beneath this it’s a short history of Iranian politics, the battle to identify your own existence when it is split between two nations and, in part, a kick up the backside to the people in the ‘West’ who simply view places like Iran as the all encompassing ‘East’.

That’s not that it doesn’t have its significant problems. I like animation sure but there are times when it’s just no substitute for live action and too many times I felt myself thinking this during Persepolis. The moments of threat or atmosphere building just don’t replicate well enough with animated figures than they do with real ones and the simple tones of Persepolis strip out the emotion you might find in say, a Pixar film. There are also times when the autobiographical director Marjane Satrapi, brave though she is, seems to be holding back on moments from her past that she doesn’t find it convenient to play out on screen.

In all though Persepolis has a touch and humour to it that whilst not uproariously funny as some critics have suggested is at least clever and witty and charming. It has a relevant message and will no doubt be many ‘Western’ peoples first education of Iran’s history (as it was, I will admit, mine).

So this Friday when you get home from work and have the choice between the pub/bar or Predator showing for the third night in a row on some strange satellite channel break the mould for a change and try Persepolis instead – you might love it, you might hate it but hey, it only costs as much as a luke-warm beer and it’ll certainly last longer!

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