2/18/08

Persepolis

Persepolis was a city so ancient, that it was already old when Alexander the Great burned it to the ground to celebrate his victory over its people, who had been called "Persians." This is an obvious reference to modern- day Iran, or as some old-timers still call it, "Persia."

Marjane Satrapi was born during the reign of the last Shah of Iran, whose family was put in power by European and American interests seventy years earlier as petroleum became of world concern. Her story encom- passes the past 90 years of Iranian history, filters it through her own experiences and puts a little girl's all-too-human face on it. She published two "graphic novels" depicting her life and times. They have been adapted to the big screen, keeping the black and white art work, using moderately primitive cartoons which nevertheless effectively convey the emotions and events as they unfold. She lives in Paris these days, consequently the dialog is in French. Hoorah!!! Captions!!!

Although I expected an unremittingly grim tale of oppression and revolution, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the little girl whose story we are witnessing is a smart, rebellious little imp. She is an only child, catered to and overindulged by her doting parents. Her grandmother, on the other hand, tends to tell her unvarnished truths, sometimes using blunt four-letter words. Naturally, she adores her grandmother! Just watching various episodes from her childhood we found ourselves laughing out loud numerous times.

You see her with her little chums, loving her Nike shoes, shopping for Michael Jackson CDs on the black market and rejecting "Abba" and the "Bee Gees" as "too corny!" She is worldly, funny and prone to adopt every political fad that seems to waft into her personal radius. Several members of her family are politically active and are punished. The family is convinced that replacing the Shah will increase the democracy they already enjoy. (Yes, there are acts of brutality, but for hundreds of years, Middle Eastern populations have been so inured to prison, torture and injustice, in this movie they seem to accept a certain amount of it as common practice.)

When the government of the Ayatollah Khomeini makes schooling in Tehran too dangerous for this outspoken little girl, her parents tearfully send her to live with an aunt in Vienna. She is booted out of there in short order because she is no more pliable in Austria than she was in Iran. Obviously she has behavior problems and is shuttled from pillar to post. In the meantime she is maturing and absorbing new and more radical political points of view....

Funny items jump out on a regular basis, e.g., a husband is watching TV while his wife is searching for her car keys; there is no doubt that he is watching an Arnold Schwarzenegger film!

This movie is informative, entertaining and highly involving. My thanks to my CPA, who, along with doing my taxes every year, also supplies movie tips.