What does one do, or even say, about a film that is, by any measurement that matters, perfect? When considering Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's finely etched animated adaptation of Satrapi's two-part autobiographical graphic novel about growing up in Tehran during the revolution and the Iran-Iraq War, the problem (if one could call it that) becomes particularly acute. By compressing into this film the myriad of themes that it handles, from religious oppression to teenage rebellion to cultural dissonance and war, the filmmakers could have easily encumbered it with a weight that would have outweighed its many sharp delights. But by some strange and fortunate circumstance born out of vision, patience, luck, and sheer unmitigated talent, they have managed to incorporate each of those weighty topics into a work of art that's light as a feather, in the manner of the true masterpiece.
In adapting Satrapi's book for the screen, the filmmakers could easily have gone the route that Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller did with Miller's Sin City, after all, her emotive but simple black drawings would be many times easier to represent in film than, say, the luridly complex and many-colored works of many other graphic artists. But instead of simply replicating what was on the printed page, Satrapi and Paronnaud went to a much more expressive place, choosing instead to keep the spirit and basic look of those dark, simple pages of art, and just add a natural fluidity to it. The frame doesn't move much, leaving one with the impression of looking through a window into another world, where the characters practically float like dancers amid the layered fields of beautifully grey-shaded art, and the mood is grim and poetic. There is little background music or noise except when necessary, eschewing the clouding clutter of a Disney production, with the bright and clear vocals of an early Peanuts film -- and all the heartache-inducing simple truths which that implies.
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