AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

10/16/07

Persepolis: Coming Of Age Female Style, Beyond Boys And Bras

By Prairie Miller

While girl coming of age films in the United States more often than not shed a narrow spotlight on boys and bras, the tragicomic screen-toon Persepolis has something far greater in mind. Namely, a boldly refreshing awakening to the world out there that goes beyond the personal, and embraces a multitude of political concepts.

Based on a popular French collection of four graphic novels, Persepolis is an illustrated movie biopic visualizing through vividly illuminating animation the life of filmmaker and illustrator Marjane Satrapi, who was born in Iran and sent to live in Europe at the age of fourteen. The distinguished actresses who voice these affectionately fleshed out charismatic Iranian women include Chiara Mastroianni as Marjane, Catherine Deneuve as her mother Tadji, and Danielle Darrieux voicing the role of Marjane's grandmother.

Persepolis extends from the 1970's through the 1990s, with stark and often volatile history as a relentless force and backdrop to emotion, passion and cultural dislocation. Marjane grows up in a colorful and idealistic, creatively stimulating household, the daughter of militant communist intellectual parents, much like the young female protagonist in Blame It On Fidel. But the US backed Shah has established a period of brutal repression, and leftist idealists, including within her own family, are being arrested as political prisoners, disappeared, tortured and in many cases executed. When the Islamic Revolution unfolds, with a furious fundamentalist backlash against foreign economic invasion and occupation, westernization and its related cultural decadence, Marjane and her friends find themselves subjected to strict religious conformist conventions concerning female behavior and dress.

Marjane remains a politically outspoken schoolgirl who adamantly embraces the communist ideals that enriched her childhood, and so her family, fearing for her defiant nature, sends her off to be schooled in Europe. There Marjane encounters a different set of oppressive experiences, including ethnic prejudice and sexual exploitation.

Persepolis is a remarkably eloquent personal journey into complicated womanhood, whose candor and poetry of the naked soul make one quickly forget that this is a movietoon, as it reaches into the heart to explore raw emotion and existential pain. Though sorely missing is the context of oil, and the Western calculated greed driving them to plunder the Middle East that created the ensuing chaos and strife that continue today in the US bloody exploits there.

On a side note, much is made in the usual fashion of the repression in Iran that this spunky protagonist is fortunate enough to escape. But these smug revelations ironically venture no further for US commentators examining the film, when it comes to genuine self-awareness, as one would be hard put to find a critic actually willing to address or even acknowledge that forbidden 'C' word - communism - that has so inspired and informed this immensely talented filmmaker.

Prairie Miller

1 comment:

  1. I did not like this film. Actually I felt cheated, almost played with.

    What I wanted to see was the people, their way of life, their facial expressions, the way they moved, the way the girls are able to play even though they wear constricted clothing.

    what I wanted to see was something more than ideas flashed across the scene in an animation flick that wasn't even state of the art animation.

    Yes. the ideas were compelling, the voices,professional, were not what I wanted to hear.If I want "professional" I'll see a hollywood film or top dollar French film or .........

    This film was potentially compelling, so right for today. A precious opportunity to show how women can be the masters of bringing into our conscience the essence of human process, coming of age, lost.

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