Sunday, August 05, 2007

“Freedom always has a price."

For about two hours this afternoon, I found myself transported to revolutionary-era Iran, Vienna, and back again to Paris under the aegis of Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s stunning new animated French-language feature, Persepolis. The film depicts the evolution of a Bruce Lee-worshipping, Iron Maiden-listening young girl in Tehran concurrently and in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution that ousted the Pahlavī dynasty and replaced it with a theocracy under a sheen of democracy. Based on Satrapi’s comic book of the same name, both film and book take their titles from the name of an ancient Persian city. We follow the trajectory of the main character through the years of the anti-Pahlavī uprising, through the terror of the Iran-Iraq war, an alternately eye-opening and desperately lonely time at school in Europe and back to Iran.

I must confess that, in the wilderness years between watching Bugs Bunny as a small child and the advent of The Simpsons in the early 1990s, I missed out on the whole comic book/graphic novel thing, preferring “real” books, playing guitar in a series of bands and generally being a working-class roustabout. But I must agree with Variety’s Lisa Nesselson when she writes of Persepolis that the animated feature is an “autobiographical tour de force (that) is completely accessible and art of a very high order."

Today, on a blazingly hot summer’s day here in Paris, in movie theater off Boulevard Saint-Germain, I was duly impressed. The movie’s fluid visual vocabulary, its witty skewering of European youth subcultures, its expert juggling of comedy and pathos and most of all its depiction of the fate of fragile humans in the face of powerful, brutal and unyielding state machinery makes it a very rewarding and thought-provoking cinematic experience.

“Freedom always has a price,” a character says at one point. Indeed, but as this film shows us, it if often a price worth paying.

1 comment:

Gina said...