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"Persepolis"

Directed by Vincent Parrounaud and Marjane Satrapi.
Written by Vincent Parrounaud and Marjane Satrapi.  Based on the graphic novel "The Complete Persepolis" by Marjane Satrapi.
Starring the voices of Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve and Danielle Darrieux.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  2/14/08

Folks--

Okay, so here's a twist--for once, I read the book BEFORE I saw the movie...and, like all good books that are turned into films, I was disappointed that the film left so much out of the book's great text.  But, here's the real twist: the film's writer & director was...the SAME PERSON WHO WROTE THE BOOK!

"Persepolis" follows the life of Tehran-born little girl Marjane "Marji" Satrapi (voiced here by Chiara Mastroianni), as she goes from troubled-and-confused veil-wearing activist-to-be to Vienna-based teenage exchange student to Tehran-based 20-something with a cause.  In between, she gets sage advice from her activist parents, her grandmother, a number of friends and family friends/relatives who oppose the rule of the Iranian government and have paid the price to prove it.  Between her travels, she finds time for her first touch of romance, making new friends and gaining a strong appreciation for the European lifestyle and freedoms not afforded to her in her homeland, and finally the chance to create social circles that benefit both her personal life and her activist life-to-be.

And, as quickly as I just summarized the movie, that's just as much detail as director Satrapi (with the help of Vincent Parrounaud) gives to us, as a pared-down version of her 350-page comic book text.  And, it glazes over a stunning number of good details, things that I am shocked the author decided she should leave out of her film.

That's a shame, because "Persepolis" the book is fantastic.  Its artistic style feels unique (it's completely in black and white and I loved the way it conveys the emotions of the characters involved) and the perspective--little Iranian girl watching the world around her from a political and social view--is something I have not seen prior to this.  I read the book over the course of a round-trip flight two weeks ago, and it's a great, interesting read that can be done quickly but not too quickly.  And, you come away smarter for it.

The same can't be said for the movie; yes, it's over quickly (a quick 90 minutes), but you can just tell that it is covering Satrapi's life way too fast.  Her time in middle-school and high school runs by in short order; her first boyfriend is summarized in about 45 seconds in the movie, but in the book this took up parts of multiple chapters.  I thought it stunning to see that the mom-and-daughter reunion that takes place during Marji's time in Vienna was completely lopped off; I thought this was a major turning point in the book.

I was very disappointed in the film version of "Persepolis", but much of that is tied to my surprise that the author was directly involved in this and she must have decided to leave major portions of her book out.  Maybe if I had not read the book, I would have liked this a lot more...

Rating:  Rental

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09