Shot in black-and-white to mirror Marjane Satrapi's graphic novels of her life growing up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution, Persepolis – in French with English subtitles – is like nothing you've ever seen in animation. It's a mind-blower. Using a few deft strokes of her black pen, Satrapi brings a whole world to life. With her co-director, Vincent Paronnaud, she does the same thing onscreen, starting in 1978, when the shah is overthrown and the Ayatollah Khomeini drags in an era in which women wear veils, Western culture is condemned and radical Muslims make good on threats of violence. Enter Marjane (voiced as a teenager by the terrific Chiara Mastroianni), the only child of a mother (Catherine Deneuve, Mastroianni's real mom) who warily tolerates her rebellion and the grandchild of a woman (Danielle Darrieux) who actively encourages it. Marjane is a sass queen to rival Juno. Blackmarket records, from Abba to Iron Maiden, are her drug. Like her hero, Bruce Lee, Marjane can't be stopped, which is why her mom ships her off to Vienna. Today, Satrapi lives in France and uses her art to condemn repression. Her movie, alive with humor and heartbreak, is a smart antidote. What better way to chase away menace than Marjane's irrepressible mischief?
From The Archives Issue 1044: January 24, 2008